For more than a quarter of century waters of Molochny estuary (Zaporizhia region) was a hydrological reserve of national importance. However, recently estuary is unfortunately not mentioned as a unique natural resort, but as a place where an “ecological catastrophe” took place.

On the XIX century maps it has a name of Molochne Lake. In 1932, the estuary merged with the sea. Then, according to the head of the Nature Department of the Melitopol Regional Museum Svitlana Novogorodska, many species of fish entered the estuary. In 1955 one of the first expeditions was organized to study the fishing activities of the Molochny estuary.

Its area is 168 square km, length – 32 km, maximum width – 8 km and depth is 3 meters. This is the official data, but after the bridge that connects the Molochny estuary with the Sea of ​​Azov, dried up the estuary has significantly decreased in size.

“Me and my peers were very lucky, because our childhood and adolescence passed on the shores of then unique reservoir – the Molochny estuary. From its history: until 1941, the estuary was drying up every summer, and it was possible to cross it in several places on a wagon with horses. That’s how my grandfather brought salt, collected from the bottom of the dried up bays, to the market in Yefymivka. In 1943, while retreating, practical Germans blew up the rill in the narrowest spot of Stepanivska Spit, in order not to be surrounded. Apart from the fact that it was the smallest spot of the Spit, there also was the turning point of the coastline that was located at the right angle to the dominant eastern winds. Thus, this simple and cheap hydrotechnical structure had worked until 1975 and looked more like a natural strait,” recalls local farmer Anatoly Tyhovod.

He also says that in 1975 it was decided to fill up the old rill  and to dig a new one, 3 km closer to Kyrylivka.

“The old one had successfully been buried. They didn’t manage to dig up a new one. Estuary had been frozen during the winter. In the spring, its shores were covered with dead perches, mullet and taran (species of roaches)… In 1976 a new rill at last, had been dug up. By the way, it was located in such a place that they had to dig more than 1 km and at completely different angle (the German was about 100 m long). The new rill was successfully covered with sand. However wealthy Soviet state could afford to put 2 dredgers and keep the strait in working condition. Especially, since millions of tons of this sand and coquina had been used in construction works of those five-year-plans. After Soviet Union collapse, everything has changed dramatically. There was no money. The spit became completely shallow, it was covered with sand. Right after the stop of water’s circulation with the sea, the estuary turned into a dirty lake, then it began to dry up abruptly,” added Tyhovod.

Since 2010, the estuary has become a part of the Pryazov National Natural Park. On its shores children’s recreational camps are situated. Molochny estuary washes the banks of three Zaporizhia’s areas: Yakymivsky, Pryazovsky and Melitopolsky.

Workers of the Pryazov National Natural Park assure that the new “corridor”, which connects estuary with the sea, is built next to the very pit, once made by the Germans.

“This is clearly visible on a copy of the 1954 map. The total length of the pit was about 400 meters. But nobody says that it is necessary to restore half a kilometer-wide channel. This is simply impossible. Then there was a different situation with dredge and erosion. After all, the Germans weren’t blowing up 400 meters. They blew a narrow passage there to hold off the Soviet Army’s attack. And then, due to the natural processes, the rill was eroded up to 400 meters”, Valeriy Sanko, worker of the Pryazovsky National Natural Park, explained to the local media.

Before the “water corridor” between estuary and the sea was covered with sand, 30 species of fish were living in Molochny estuary. In recent years, the fingers of one hand are enough in order to count them.

Since 1974 and till the end of the 90ies the rill was maintained in working condition by the fishermen. They also were interested in fish’s breeding. In particular, it was about so-iuy mullets, later they wanted to start its industrial catch. In addition, the fishing collective farm intended to build a sturgeon plant, a cannery and related infrastructure. Plans remained on the paper. Authorities took the pit from fishermen hands and decided that the state would take care of its cleansing.

Last year 1.5 million UAH were allocated from the regional budget for the opening of the rill. There was a tender competition, and the winner appeared to be an enterprise from Mykolaiv. However, it turned out that the contractor took an advance, but the work wasn’t completed. As a result, in September, more than 60,000 mullets died at Molochny estuary. State’s total losses were 92 million UAH. Zaporizhia regional prosecutor’s office accused the head of ecology’s department of negligence and the contractor – in the falsification of documents. For its part, in a “Facebook space” upper mentioned ministry was embarrassed and promised to punish the perpetrators. However post in the social media was the only thing made by it.

At the same time as law enforcers and authorities are looking for guilty, the pit is again covered with sand, in the result of which increases the level of salinity that will lead to another mass deaths.

And even if this year (as well as it was the last year and the year before it) authorities will do a good thing and open the rill in spring, it will be necessary to support it. Otherwise, the state will suffer losses, law enforcement will open new criminal cases, and a unique hydrological sanctuary will continue its transformation into a puddle.

Text by Olha Parseniuk

Photo by Dmytro Smolienko

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