What can turn the Earth into the red planet?
How much can an industry transform the environment? In a Russian town Karabash, the landscape has changed unrecognizably, it started to remind martian landscapes. The beautiful orange color symbolizes death and pollution.
It was an unusually hot day for the late summer when we were heading in the direction of town Karabash. The bright sunlight was blicking between the trees and painfully hitting my forehead. Suddenly, the road got out from the shadow of the forest and I saw a dry lifeless land with fuming tubes in the background. As we are were nearing the city a strange metal smell started to appear. The dust made it difficult to breathe.
“We try to get through this city as fast as possible, it is unusual that there are people who want to make a stop here”
– told me Alexei (husband of my sister, born in Miass, a city 50km from Karabash)
I heard many people in Russia telling, that for a long time Karabash had been the most polluted city on the planet, and then it was replaced by Norilsk (in Siberia). I could not find any confirmation for that on the Internet, but by seeing it, it becomes clear that the ecological situation is disastrous.
Karabash Copper Factory
The polluter is Karabash Copper Factory. It was constructed in 1910 and has been functioning since with a shutdown between 1980-1998.
During Soviet time and Cold War, no one was taking environmental issues seriously. Copper is one of the most dangerous productions for ecology. Because of the emissions and acid rains, almost all of the territory around the factory is “burned out”. It makes it look like the Red Planet. Some places around the city remind of decorations for a post-apocalyptic movie.
This surrealistic landscapes and industry made the city known, among “alternative tourists”.
The place where the orange stream runs into the clean waters is the one everyone likes to photograph. It is a bad irony that such a beautiful, rich color symbolizes death and pollution. Some close-up shots look like miniature landscapes from Mars.
It is painful to see the dead nature and when you think of people who live in Karabash, it starts to be scary. Alexey told, the life expectancy is very low, those who can – leave the city. The table below (source) shows the numbers of inhabitants (in thousands).
Some older survey shows that there are 3 times more children with birth defects. Many people cough and suffer from heavy metal poisoning. Locals tell that little-to-none was done to make production ecologically friendly.
When you leave the city, you see the black hills, which is the production waste.
Still an open question
Something I couldn’t figure out is how much the situation in Karabash (and industry in Cheliabinsk Area in general) affects the ecology in the region. Karabash is located between two clean lakes: Turgoyak (locals tell it is the second cleanest lake in Russia after Baikal) and Uvil’dy. Next to the city, there is clean and beautiful national park Taganay.
Does anyone know the answer?
(post about lakes, Taganay and more of Cheliabinsk area is coming soon)