13 April 2008

Things are bad when the Mayor suggests abandoning a town.

In the episode Trash of the Titans, Homer Simpson is elected Sanitation Commissioner for Springfield. Needless to say his actions make the town uninhabitable so the population re-establishes Springfield a few miles down the road..

Chapayevsk is a town of about 70,000 inhabitants in European Russia not far from Samara. It was founded about a century ago and was named 1929, after a Bolshevik Civil War hero. It was the site of a chemical weapons factory that churned out mustard gas and other deadly weapons in industrial quantities. Safety was not even a secondary concern with toxic chemicals frequently spilling over into factory drains and out into the environment. Over time the city's water became contaminated with dioxins and other poisons. The factory now produces herbicides but the pollution in the air and the ground is there to stay

The situation is so dire that the Mayor, Nikolai Malakhov, feels the best option is to abandon the town completely. At a round table meeting on the environment in Samara he said that resettling the town's residents would be an "ideal solution" to Chapayevsk's problems

A study undertaken in 2005 found that not only was the air in Chapayevsk contaminated with dioxins, but also locally produced fruit and vegetables, as well as the meat from locally farmed animals. The more local produce that people ate, the more likely they were to get ill. According to the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the fatality rates from throat, liver and kidney cancer in Chapayevsk are three times higher than in nearby cities. The American study found a whole range of sexual abnormalities in Chapayevsk boys, who typically have a late start to puberty.The town also has a high level of unemployment, and one of the highest levels of heroin use in the country, which is contributing to the start of an HIV epidemic.

While a spokesperson at the local parliament denied that there was any serious talk of relocating the town's inhabitants, abandoning the town might be the most economically viable option. "For 100 years, factories in Chapayevsk have been producing weapons, powders and chemical components," Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of Russia's official environmental watchdog, told a Russian agency. "There are several cities like this in Russia. But we can spend 50m roubles (£1m) on recultivating the stream that runs through the village that has been contaminated, and nothing will improve. To do it right, we'd have to dig a new channel, redirect the stream there, and remove all the soil. Can you imagine how much that would cost? The only sensible way to solve this problem is with resettlement."

Sometimes Life imitates art (or at least suggests the imitation). Sadly life is rarely as funny as the Simpsons in its prime. This case is far from a laughing matter.


Liz Hinds said...

Thta's dreadful.

Swansea Bay, when I was growing up was very polluted. Pollution from all the industry in the valley poured down the river and into the sea. When I was little we were still unaware and I grew up swimming in the Bay (which could explain a lot!!) but by the time I was a young teen, cockle-gathering in the bay was banned for health reasons. Over latter years there has been a big clean-up and new sewage works built and now the sea in the Bay is really good again. They're even growing (breeding?) oysters in Oystermouth again.

But that's not on quite the level of the toxins in Chapayevsk. No-one wants to stay there surely?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

What a dire situation. You're right about life imitating art.

jams o donnell said...

Copperopolis is certainly not as polluted as it used to be eh Liz? As for Chapayevsk I daresay a lot of people are trapped there with no prospect of geting out

I wish there was a happier ending for more stories though Welshcakes

Roland Dodds said...

I’ll hand it to the mayor; it takes some leadership to get everyone to move the town! If he can do it, it will be some accomplishment.

James Higham said...

Russians are good at the lateral solution - they've had to adapt because no one else is coming to the rescue.

Nunyaa said...

Well who created this mess James? Got to start cleaning up their own backyard and not expecting others to help when it possibly, i don't know, could of been avoided??

jams o donnell said...

It would be quite a feat, Roland! It happened in Pripyat after Chernobyl but that was a government led initiative.

THat does not surprise e James. I doubt Russia has anywhere near the resources to clean up the mess left behind by the soviet regime

It looks like it started under Stalin Nunyaa. I would imagine an environmentalist in those days would be given the opportunity to look at the flora and fauna of Kolyma!

CherryPie said...

Chernobyl and the effect it had on Wales springs to mind too!

elasticwaistbandlady said...

I wanted to right something pithy, but I can't.

This is just plain sad and environmentally irresponsible.

jams o donnell said...

Indeed cherrypie. Chernobyl was a disaster but it could ahve been a lot worse.

It was inded EWBL. Siuch concernes were swept aside by the soviets.. they were in the west for a long time too but not on the same scale perhaps