Author Topic: "Nature lovers discover Chernobyl"  (Read 3073 times)

Offline Baradium

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"Nature lovers discover Chernobyl"
« on: October 05, 2007, 07:53:33 AM »

Nature lovers discover Chernobyl
Two decades after the nuclear-plant disaster, Ukrainians flock to the region to enjoy the wilderness that came to life after humans left

From Friday's Globe and Mail

October 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM EDT

STRAKHOLISSYA, Ukraine — As wilderness getaway weekends go, it rarely gets much better than this.

The sky is a cornflower blue and the lake is calm. Sunburned fishermen pull up to the dock in motorboats, their nets filled with pike.

On the deck of a hunting lodge, couples are feasting on their catches and rehashing the day's adventures. Farther down the road, crews are finishing the roof of yet another lakefront, luxury home.

The latest villa to sprout on the shores of the Kiev Reservoir is just a few metres from the barbed-wire fence that marks the 30-kilometre exclusion zone surrounding the infamous Chernobyl plant.

 Yes, nature lovers have discovered Chernobyl. The region near the scene of the world's worst nuclear accident is now dubbed the “Chernobyl Riviera” for its grand homes and commanding vistas.

“Look at this beautiful view,” said lodge guest Sergei Kuzmenko, as he prepared a lunch of fish soup, potatoes, wild mushrooms and an assortment of liquors and desserts.

“It's better than in the movies.”

In the distance, pleasure boats speed atop the marshy waters of the man-made reservoir carved from the Dnieper River.

Twenty-one years after a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, ripping off the roof, and spewing radioactive poison into the countryside, Ukrainian holiday-makers are flocking to the region to bask in its quiet and enjoy the abundant wilderness that sprang to life when humans were forcibly evacuated.

Today, the woods and waters surrounding the village of Strakholissya – a half-hour drive from the stricken plant – are among the best hunting and fishing grounds in Ukraine. Wild boar, deer and wolves roam in the dense birch and pine forests.

Not one of the many weekenders interviewed expressed concern about potential health hazards. “It's more contaminated in Kiev,” one fisherman said, laughing.

Recently, Ukraine's rich and famous discovered the tranquil spot. They are mainly from Kiev, townspeople say, and they have built a line of lavish homes, hidden from prying villagers' eyes by tall fences.

Their magnificent houses, docks and swimming pools are on full display if you rent a boat and ogle from the lake.

The class divider is a waterfront road: Those on the water side are wealthy weekenders; those on the road side are local villagers. The two groups don't mix.

On summer nights, the waterfront homeowners throw large parties and launch fireworks, said Sergey Brekhov, during a motorboat tour of the waterfront homes.

Part fishing enthusiast, part voyeur, Mr. Brekhov does odd jobs for some of the homeowners, freely sharing the gossip he's amassed. The biggest house on the lake, he said, pointing to a yellow brick home topped with a satellite dish, belongs to a man who once worked for Ukraine's disgraced ex-prime minister, Pavlo Lazarenko, who was convicted of money laundering.

Before that, it was owned by a famous Ukrainian actor, Mr. Brekhov said. His information couldn't be verified because no one answered the gate buzzer.

But Chernobyl isn't just for oligarchs and movie stars. Kiev is just 110 kilometres to the south and many residents like to get out of the city for the day or to camp overnight.

Igor Tarnovsky, an elevator maintenance worker, came with his friends Mikhail Golovsky and Alexander Tsimai to pick mushrooms and fish.

Last Saturday, the smiling trio sat in their tiny motorboat in the middle of the lake, their fishing rods planted in the water, enjoying Ukraine's last gasp of summer.

Mr. Tarnovsky said he trusts that authorities have done their jobs cleaning the region. And he has no qualms about eating mushrooms or berries picked in the forest. Earlier, he and his friends cooked a batch of mushrooms and “had a nice little party.”

However, there is still some dispute about the extent of the environmental damage.

In the days and weeks after the April, 1986, explosion, nearly 200,000 people were evacuated from their homes while thousands of young Soviet soldiers and engineers moved in to contain the blaze and start the cleanup.

A recent UN report said radiation levels are expected to remain high for decades. And a 2006 Greenpeace report said wild game, fish, berries and mushrooms have higher than safe levels.

Despite these concerns, there is no dispute that the forced evacuation of an entire region allowed nature to reclaim the area. Inside the exclusion zone, the pot-holed roads and crumbling homes give the area a ghostly, post-apocalyptic feel. But there is life in the trees and undergrowth circling the decaying villages. In one weather-beaten house, a birch tree could be seen growing inside the long-abandoned home.

There are also disputes about the health toll among the scores of reports written on the fallout. The World Health Organization put the immediate death toll at 50 deaths, with another 9,000 dying later of radiation-related illness. Others estimated nearly 100,000 were killed by fatal cancers and another 100,000 more could die.

What's known for sure is that children are sick with cancer, thyroid illness and cerebral palsy in the habited villages now used for hunting and fishing. Last year in Strakholissya, a 14-year old girl died of ovarian cancer.

Environmental uncertainties don't stop people from migrating to the region.

Anatoly Vityuk retired to Strakholissya with his family nine years ago and bought a modest home. Mr. Vityuk, 50, was irked when the wealthy homeowners arrived three years ago, erecting gated estates that blocked his waterfront view.

Still, he wouldn't live anywhere else. “In the summer, I go swimming. I sunbathe. I can row my boat. It's a nice life.”

At the hunting lodge, Mr. Kuzmenko, his wife and friends said they weren't worried about radiation levels.

“Our bodies have adapted to this,” said Sergei Ivanov, who, along with Mr. Kuzmenko and their wives drove up from Kiev for a weekend of duck hunting.

The group were up at dawn with their rifles. By early afternoon, they were back at the lodge, relaxing on the deck, the corpses of their hunted fowl hanging from the railing. Mr. Kuzmenko's wife, Oksana, was looking forward to sunset.

“In the evening, the water gets an interesting colour,” Ms. Kuzmenko said. “The moon gives a white light, which makes [the lake] look like ice.”

"Well I know what's right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around
But I stand my ground, and I won't back down"
  -Johnny Cash "I won't back Down"

Offline Rooster Cruiser

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Re: "Nature lovers discover Chernobyl"
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2007, 02:11:24 PM »
These characters should read what one of their own says about they Chernobyl area,

Elena Filatova explains in her website how the entire area is heavily contaminated and she carries a geiger counter wherever she goes.  In some places, to step off the road is to invite death.  Americium and Polonium, both byproducts of nuclear decay, have been absorbed by the vegetation and now irridiate anything that passes close to the leaves.  While the wildlife is making a return to the area, most show the effects of radiation exposure and have short lifespans.  There are a few accounts of rather bizarre mutations of farm animals having been born in the area as well.

I hope these fools enjoy their little paradise...  they won't enjoy it for long.
"Me 'n Earl was haulin' chickens / On a flatbed outta Wiggins..."

Wolf Creek Pass, by CW McCall

Offline Baradium

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Re: "Nature lovers discover Chernobyl"
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2007, 07:33:36 PM »
Supposedly, this girl was busted a while ago for having made all this up.  The pictures were from a tour she took of the area and she never had that "special access" she claims.

She apparently doesn't even own a motorcycle and had gotten someone who was riding around to let her sit on their bike.   This was in addition to other allegations.

I havn't looked too hard yet, but I'm having trouble finding the allegations right now.   I will say that the site has more on it than I remember when the allegations popped up.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2007, 08:16:04 PM by Baradium »
"Well I know what's right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around
But I stand my ground, and I won't back down"
  -Johnny Cash "I won't back Down"