Project: The Colors of Revolution

Industrialization brings environmental challenges

by Thaddeus McCleary

Being a country of a wealth of natural resources and geographic advantages, Ukraine has held the attention of the world since the earliest records of human civilization. The same fertile grounds and sea access that created the Rus civilization in the 9th century continues to provide the nation with many economic opportunities. Besides being the breadbasket of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, the discovery of mineral resources began a move of industrialization that changed the landscape of the nation forever.

 Coal-burning facilities along the Dnieper River  in Dnepropetrovsk.
Coal-burning facilities along the Dnieper River
in Dnepropetrovsk.

Compared to modern current day technology industrial facilities in Ukraine are inefficient and have little to no pollution regulation, leaving them not only harmful to the people and environment but also limiting their ability to compete in the world economy. Dnipropetrovsk, a closed city during Soviet times due to the large missle manufacturing factories, now has great concern over air quality due to an abundance of coal-burning facilities. In the west, an area rich in agriculture and history, cities face air pollution and damage to historical sites due to a growing number of vehicles as income levels rise and consumer products become more available.

Using foreign investment to modernize industry has become a major issue in recent political struggles. “Ukrainian companies are less willing than in other European nations to give up ownership to improve machinery,” explained Ihor Kohut, director of the Agency for Legislative Initiatives.

In April of 1986, Unit 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant melted down, leaving Ukraine with a vigorous wound for thousands of years to come. The most immediate radiation deeply contaminated a thirty kilometer area around the site. Among the effected areas included the Dnieper River which serves as the nation’s primary water source. Perhaps the greatest danger from the contaminated area is agricultural production and materials being distributed throughout the country. Looting of abandoned buildings due to lax security has made tracking radioactive materials nearly impossible in the region.

Professor Chris Moos views a model of the sarcophagus
surrounding Unit 4 of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

A new building near Unit 4 serves as the center for project development and fundraising, visited by many world leaders including Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. The center has drawn up plans for a new, more effective sarcophagus. “Many nations have promised to support the construction of the new sarcophagus but aid has not come,” explains Maxim, a radiation monitor at Chernobyl.

“ Ukraine continues to spend up to 5 percent of its GDP on mitigation of the social, health and environmental consequences” of the Chernobyl accident, according to a 2000 report by the United Nation’s IAEA and Chernobyl Shelter Fund. The UN has estimated that it will cost US $768 million to properly reinforce and build a new containment sarcophagus for the reactor, of which only $393 million has been pledged.

As Ukraine has begun to take responsibility for many environmental abuses in its territory, the strain of funding for both environmental cleanup and economic development has placed a development barrier on a nation with great potential. Only through the assistance of the international community can Ukraine begin to join in the movement toward sustainable development.