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European bison to inhabit disaster-hit Chernobyl area

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Ukraine's emergency situations minister announced plans Friday to introduce bison to Chernobyl to try and establish a nature reserve in the area affected by the world's worst civilian nuclear power disaster.
KIEV, June 20 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's emergency situations minister announced plans Friday to introduce bison to Chernobyl to try and establish a nature reserve in the area affected by the world's worst civilian nuclear power disaster.

An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power in 1986 resulted in highly radioactive fallout in the atmosphere over an extensive area. A 30-kilometer (19-mile) exclusion zone was introduced following the accident.

"After this pilot project has been implemented, we will discuss the feasibility of establishing conservation areas on this territory," Volodymyr Shandra said.

He also urged that tourists be encouraged to visit the Chernobyl area so that people can observe the "price of human error."

The Chernobyl exclusion zone has become a haven for wildlife with lynx, eagles, and even bears that had disappeared from the area, reappearing. In addition populations of badgers, deer, elk, otters, wolves, beavers and boars have thrived without human interference.

In a book Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl, American author, Mary Mycio argues that Chernobyl is already Europe's largest wildlife sanctuary, which despite the tragedy has flourished even though both the animals and some locals, who returned to live in the zone, are radioactive.

Vast areas, mainly in the three then-Soviet republics of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, were contaminated by the fallout of the Chernobyl NPP explosion. More than 300,000 people were relocated after the accident. However, 5 million people still live in areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine classified as "contaminated" by radiation.

There is no accurate data on the number of deaths, due to Soviet secrecy over the disaster. The Chernobyl Forum said 56 people, mainly rescue workers, were killed at the scene, and another 4,000 died of thyroid cancer shortly afterwards.

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