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Is Chernobyl a haven of nature?

Absolutely, says Sunny in Chernobyl author Andrew Blackwell, who claims that the nuclear disaster site has become one of Europe’s best wildlife preserves

Is Chernobyl a haven of nature?

Many people are intrigued by a visit to Chernobyl – but, according to author and environmentalist Andrew Blackwell, it shouldn’t just be because of the iconic images of crumbling ferris wheels and Soviet relics at Pripyat, the town of almost 50,000 people that was evacuated one day in 1986 after the world’s worst ever nuclear disaster.

Blackwell first went to Chernobyl’s 30km exclusion zone for his book Sunny in Chernobyl, about the world’s most polluted places. “I went there expecting I’d recommend it ironically,” he says, “but found this beautiful, thought-provoking place that has to be Europe’s greatest unintended wildlife preserve.”

Chernobyl has become home to an amazing array of creatures, from wild boars to beavers, wolves and wild horses, which were introduced after the accident. Lynx and brown bears have reportedly returned, the latter for the first time in over a century.  

The reason for all this is the lack of humans, even though a day at Chernobyl will irradiate you about as much as an X-ray at the hospital (ie not dangerously so). “You realise that people have a much more obvious impact on the environment than radioactivity does,” says Blackwell. “It seems contradictory, because we equate pollution with ugliness.”

And Pripyat’s rusting dodgems days may be numbered. “It’s fascinating how quickly wildlife and vegetation consumes our artefacts,” says Blackwell. “It won’t take long for the traces of people to disappear.”

For now, though, the reactor and the abandoned Pripyat cityscape are still the main attractions. “Humans have always been fascinated by ruins,” says Blackwell, “though I’m uncomfortable in seeing the ruins as just another form of beauty, given what happened here.” Though fewer than 50 people are said to have died because of the disaster, health officials predicted a two per cent rise in cancer rates over the next 70 years for those exposed to radiation.

There’s no danger now, however, if you visit on a day tour from Kiev. Blackwell says it’s worth it: “In one place you find beauty, scientific and historical interest, and all this nature. It’s a remarkable place.”

Find more online
visitsunnychernobyl.com
tourkiev.com
world-nuclear.org


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