Specialists from the Lithuanian Hydrometeorological Service have observed an increasingly drying Nemunas from mid-July. Environmentalists suspect that the drop in the river level is due to human activity – the building of the Belarus Grodno hydroelectric power station. The government’s assistance is being sought for the purpose of finding the cause of this drop in the river level.
Hydrologists have been aware of this drying of the Nemunas since mid-July. Although it has stopped subsiding in the last few days there is no evidence of it having risen.On Sunday and Monday, the water deficit was found to be fractionally lower than conservational by about one cube. Nevertheless, this is not far from danger level in that conservational water debit was reached, says Juozas Simkus, senior specialist in the Lithuanian Hydrometeorological Service’s Hydrology Division. This view is supported by Inland Waterways Authority staff who say that they have not seen such a shallow Nemunas. The river’s low water level prevents the shipping of sludge from the Nemunas island, stops entertainment and has a serious impact on cargo shipping.
A level of 7 centimetres – the lowest in the past 10 years – contrasts with a level of 30 in the upper part above the HES. It has a huge impact on shipping, says Gintautas Labanauskas, Director General of the Inland Waterways Authority.
While specialists suspect human agency as the cause there is, so far, no official data to support this view. We know from internet sources that Belarus is building the Grodno hydroelectric power station and that they have started filling the water reservoirs. This has undoubtedly restricted the flow of the Nemunas, suspects J Simkus.
We will report the facts to the Ministry of the Environment about the low water level near Druskininkai and ask the Ministry to obtain from the authorities in Belarus all necessary information about likely causes, says Gintautas Sabas, head of the Hydrology Division of the Environmental Protection Agency.According to environmantalists, the last time the water level was so low was in 2006 in the Neris near Vilnius. At that time an approach was made to Belarus asking for a more responsible attitude towards the use of water. However, there was a drought in the country in that year. This summer, the water level of all rivers is normal – except that of the Nemunas.