Area Based Risk Assessment: Bakhmut Raion Donetska Oblast, Eastern Ukraine - August 2020

Originally published
View original



The 3P Consortium: Prepare, Prevent and Protect civilian populations from disaster risks in conflict-affected areas

On the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, the 3P Consortium (ACTED, IMPACT Initiatives, Right To Protection, the Austrian Red Cross, the Danish Red Cross and the Ukrainian Red Cross) launched its programme to reduce vulnerability to disaster risks in Eastern Ukraine by preparing, preventing and protecting civilian populations who are at risk of major disasters.

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Shelling, landmines, unexploded ordnances, frequent water and electricity cuts: this is daily life for people living close to the contact line, which splits government controlled areas from non-government controlled areas and where armed fighting continues to take place.

Natural, industrial and ecological hazards present in conflict-affected areas also pose a significant risk to the life and health of millions, and to the resilience of essential service delivery systems. Flooding coal mines, factories exposed to shelling, toxic landfills, chemical spills: these are yet another aspect of daily reality in Eastern Ukraine.

It is to raise awareness about these risks that the 3P Consortium – a group of Ukrainian and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), was formed in 2019 with financial support from the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) / Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

In 2019 on October 13th, celebrated as the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, the 3P Consortium introduced its programme which aims at supporting the Government of Ukraine to fulfill its commitment under the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. The 3P programme aims to reduce vulnerability to disaster risks in Eastern Ukraine by preparing, preventing and protecting civilian populations who are at risk of a major disaster.


Bakhmut Raion is located in the northern part of Donetska Oblast in Eastern Ukraine. Bordering Luhanska Oblast to the north, the raion extends to within 5km of the contact line (CL). Currently, 16 potentially hazardous facilities are located within the raion itself, with a further 152 facilities within 25km. Many of these facilities are located in the non-governmental controlled area (NGCA).

These hazardous facilities include mines, power stations, chemical and coke plants, water supply infrastructure, spoil tips, tailing dams and agricultural plants. The facilities pose both environmental and human risks due to hazardous substances, plus the threat of disruption due to conflict and poor maintenance. In addition, there are >40 spoil tips in the raion and almost 700 within 25km, particularly to the south and northeast, and extending into the NGCA.

The settlements of Luhanske, Myronivskyi and Vozdvyzhenka are the most exposed to hazardous facilities. These settlements are all located very close to the CL, putting them at high risk of conflict. For example, shelling at Vuglehiska Thermal Power Station (TPS) has led to fires and power access disruption on several occaisons since the start of the conflict, whilst shelling at industrial units such as Bakhmut Agrarian Union has led to environmental damage due to release of hazardous substances.

The coal sector accounts for >50% of Ukraine’s greenhouse gas emissions and is a major source of air pollution in the region. Frequent overage of maximum permitted concentration (MPC) is registered; in particular for aerosols, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2020), chronic exposure to air pollution increases mortality from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.

Zaitseve witnessed the greatest number of conflict incidents from July 2019-June 2020 (265), followed by Dolomitne (NGCA) and Novoluhanske, both with >200 incidents. In addition to being an anthropogenic hazard, conflict is considered a trigger for other hazards, increasing risk posed by hazardous facilities, and impacting societies' coping capacity.

Wildfires and urban fires are common in the raion. Bakhmut recorded the highest number of satellitedetected fires from 2001-2019 (128), followed by Luhanske, Zaitseve and Soledar, with around 70 each.

Significant wildfire fuel was identified in proximity to these settlements through satellite land cover detection. This is a concern given the number of conflict incidents in the area, which can be a trigger for wildfires, as mentioned previously.

According to The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) database, five settlements have been affected by landmine explosions since 2017, including Luhanske, Zaitseve and Svitlodarsk. Landmines are considered both a potential trigger for wildfires and as an indicator of limited coping capacity for communities, since they complicate emergency service access. Snow, heavy rains, flooding and smog were mentioned in secondary data review as natural factors increasing mine explosion risk with the absence of visible warning signs.

During cold waves and heat waves, ongoing conflict can lead to disruption of utility networks. If affected, the coping capacity of the population is significantly reduced, increasing their risk to these hazards. Between 2000 and 2019, Zelenopilia, Pylypchatyne, Volodymyrivka and Olenivka each experienced 30+ days/year on average where temperatures exceeded +37°C and are therefore most at risk from heat waves. As for cold waves, Platonivka experienced an average of 24 days where temperatures fell below -15°C, whilst many other settlements in the north experienced >20 days, making this area the most at-risk from cold waves.

Rural settlements were found to be more vulnerable to natural and anthropogenic hazards than urban areas, with urban areas >5km from CL having the lowest vulnerability. Novoluhanske meanwhile had the highest vulnerability (a rural settlement <5km from the CL). Predictably, settlements closer to the CL experienced more conflict events, with Zaitseve recording 24% of all incidents. Vulnerability was calculated based on susceptibility and coping capacity, accounting for factors such as unemployment, dependency and service access. It was found that urban settlements <5km from the CL had the highest proportion of population with disabilities and the highest proportion of vulnerable head of households.

In addition, distances to key services can affect coping capacity and it was found that rural settlements <5km from the CL generally had to travel further to reach a primary health care facility or social facility, whilst urban settlements less than 5km from the CL had further to travel to an education facility in general.



Ukraine has been affected by conflict since 2014, and civilians continue to be negatively impacted by the crisis. Since April 2014, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported more than 3000 civilians have died, 9000 have been injured and up to 1.5 million have been internally displaced. Today, despite the Minsk agreements, the conflict continues to affect 5.2 million people, of whom 3.5 million are in urgent need of protection and humanitarian assistance (UNOCHA 2019).

In parallel, the population remains vulnerable to preexisting natural and anthropogenic hazards such as extreme weather and hazardous critical infrastructure failure. Systems to cope with these hazards are becoming increasingly vulnerable due to lack of maintenance and continued conflict, limiting community capacity to prepare, prevent, and protect.

Populations living closest to the CL also face conflictrelated hazards including: regular shelling; high mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination; and frequent utility cuts, which are particularly dangerous in harsh winters. Moreover, conflict exacerbates risks posed by pre-existing anthropogenic hazards, both directly through shelling of critical infrastructure and indirectly due to poor maintenance, or abandonment.

The conflict also exacerbates the risks of natural hazards. Eastern Ukraine has a humid continental climate characterised by large seasonal temperature fluctuations, with hot summers and cold winters.

Extreme weather events are not uncommon in this region. Severe winters coupled with poor or damaged shelter infrastructure or heating services can increase the risk of hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning.

In 2006, 60,000 residents in the city of Alchevsk were left without heating for weeks due to a heating system failure during a severe cold spell, resulting in the evacuation of all children until heating was restored (2006, February 11, The Guardian). This scenario was repeated to a lesser extent in February 2017 when electricity and water infrastructure in Avdiivka was extensively damaged and led to a significant decrease in capacity of the heating system for several weeks, prompting local authorities and humanitarian actors to set up communal heating points (2017, February 1, UNICEF press release).

During the summer, heatwaves pose a threat of heat stroke, particularly to the elderly and other vulnerable populations. Due to the conflict, access to safe drinking water may be disrupted if water supplies are interrupted. In addition, Eastern Ukraine is susceptible to wildfires during hot summer months, and conflictrelated explosions only increase the likelihood of wildfires due to proximity to the CL. In 2010, the Luhansk region experienced a 24-day heatwave which triggered hundreds of wildfires.

This Area Based Risk Assessment (ABRA) aims to highlight the multiple hazards that settlements are exposed to, both natural and anthropogenic, and their risks to such hazards.

Overview of Assessed Area

Bakhmut Raion is located in the northeast of Donetska Oblast, bordering Luhanska Oblast on the east. The area of Bakhmut Raion is 57,041.6ha, including 39,145.9ha of agricultural land (69%) and 2,137ha of forest (3.7%). The total population of Bakhmut Raion Government Controlled Area (GCA) is 45,026 (2020), whilst the administrative center of the raion is Bakhmut City, with an estimated population of 77,620 (СVA, 2018).

Bakhmut Raion includes 2 city councils (Svitlodarsk and Chasiv Yar), 2 urban-type councils (Myronivka and Luhanke), 3 village councils (Kalynivka, Kodema and Novoluhansk) and Zaitseve military-civil administration settlement located along the CL. Twenty-three settlements have been divided by the CL and are now located outside of the GCA.

According to the new prospective administrative plan, Bakhmut Raion includes 4 hromadas in the current area (Soledar, Siversk, Zvaniv and Bakhmut), as well as Toretsk Hromada. This ABRA is focused on Bakhmut area only (Bakhmut Raion GCA with Bakhmut City), whilst Toretsk area is covered in a separate ABRA.

Bakhmut Raion is one of the largest salt mining regions in Ukraine and there are 2 large operational salt deposits in the raion - Bakhmut and Novo-Karfagenne. In addition, there are clay deposits located near Chasiv Yar and a dolomite deposit for metallurgy near Siversk.