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The area that has experienced intense pollution of long-lived radionuclides after the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, has been closed for decades. There are almost no people, even animals have left the exclusion zone. Today the situation has changed for the better. In 2012 in Chernobyl first traces of bison were recorded. This species is considered to disappear in Ukraine’s wild nature, so their appearance in an area contaminated by radiation very surprised environmentalists. In addition, the researchers argue that this territory is already settled by some bears. This is very important to create a biosphere reserve to wildlife was safe.
The idea of the Chernobyl Biosphere Reserve (CBR) has been discussed for more than a year. However, there were a lot of obstacles towards the arrangement. "The question of CBR arose long ago, but it was not resolved because of the resistance of zone management, and some other structures. But now it has become topical again because the island area of not yet shared resources, and there is a danger that this could happen (land, forest, etc.)," said the head of the National Ecological Center of Ukraine Yaroslav Movchan.
This project would enable appropriate environmental measures to implement zoning and coordinate scientific research and monitoring. In addition, conservation areas meets the safety requirements as radionuclides has not disappeared. This is a great chance for nature to recover.
Biosphere reserve would combine environmental protection with adjustable tradition, and most importantly, it would not conflict with the special legislation on the exclusion zone. On the basis of such a feature different reservations exist such as Askaniya Nova, Carpathians, Danube and the Black Sea biosphere reserves.
Decisions at the state level
The Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine expects in a short time to complete work on the development of the Chernobyl Biosphere Reserve on the basis of the exclusion zone. The decision about it was made in 2014, but there are no significant steps on the part of government. Project of the decree is on the approval of the Government, and no one know when it would be adopted.
It is expected that by April 2016 the order on creation CBR will be ready. Deputy Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine Svitlana Kolomiets said that the Ministry will take a decision on the formation of the State Agency of Ukraine for Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Administration of radiation-ecological biosphere reserve. In addition, within six months, they plan to adopt the Regulation on Chernobyl radiation-ecological biosphere reserve. "During 2016, in accordance with the law, we need to allow Chernobyl radiation-ecological biosphere reserve to use hundreds of hectares of land and develop project land for allotment of land and land management project organization and delineation of the biosphere reserve," said Kolomiets.
However, activists believe that the issue of creation of the reserve will not be resolved. "Maybe they would adopt a decree, but no one would do more… And this despite the fact that there is actually nothing to do, because nature had done 70% of the work, the state has just to support it," said Oleksandr Shcherban.
According to experts, establishment of Biosphere Reserve does not require a lot of money. The only thing that is important is support of government. Moreover, there are high hopes for foreign investments. “Those funds needed for establishing CBR are not too large or cumbersome for the budget. But, of course, the appearance of high conservation facility will make it possible to attract international funds. This is not "investment" in the classic banking sense, but financing the conservation measures," says Yaroslav Movchan.
It should be noted that none of the investors will support such an idea if state support is not guaranteed. So, again, it depends on the Ukrainian authorities.
"There are many foreign volunteers who are willing to work there. The main thing is to give guarantees on the national level and prove that we really need it," says Movchan. Parliament must vote for the return of bonuses to employees in the exclusion zone. It will also attract additional workforce of the future project, experts note.
Under the plan, the reserve should be a 30-km zone, where the law should prohibit any economic activity: only researches and experiments might be conducted. However, in 2 years it is planned plan to build centralized repository for spent nuclear fuel. The storage facility project does not fit into the concept of reserve.
However, the Ministry of Environment says that the creation of the repository will not affect the CBR, because its aim is to preserve the natural state of the most common natural systems of Polissia, natural and historical region. The barrier function of the Chernobyl exclusion zone must be improved, the hydrological regime must be stabilized, and contaminated territories must be rehabilitated. The 10-kilometer zone, on which are situated the industrial area "Chernobyl NPP", complex "Vektor", paragraph of radioactive waste "Bur'yakivka" and other facilities and transport routes, would not be included into the reservation.
Another obstacle to the full functioning of the biosphere reserve is that control throughout the territory is conducted by the private companies. Activists believe that there is a threat of poaching, which would jeopardize all the animals that live there. "Well, poaching takes place there, and it would not disappear after creation of the reserve. For as it usually happens, the territory will be controlled "private owner". I think that in some time people will begin to build houses there," said Shcherban, adding that the reason is mentality of the Ukrainian, who often wants to earn, and the money does not stink.
The Decree on the establishment of Chernobyl Biosphere Reserve might be a signal that Ukraine remembers the 30th anniversary of the tragedy. Ukraine must demonstrate that it is interested in restoration of the nature and overcoming the consequences of the disaster that changed the world.