TO The dismantled nuclear power plant surrounded by vacant land, rubble and abandoned buildings is not what most people associate with a UNESCO World Heritage site. But that’s what Ukraine has in mind for Chernobyl. Hoping that such an allocation could attract funds and more tourists, the government has started a process that could eventually allow it to apply for protection from the UN cultural, scientific and educational body.
On April 26, the former Soviet republic marks the 35th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, when a reactor at the plant, which was about 108 km (67 miles) north of the capital Kiev, exploded during a test of failed security. The result was the worst nuclear accident in the world. Clouds of radiation were sent across much of Europe and tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate.
Thirty-one plant workers and firefighters died immediately after the disaster, mostly from acute radiation sickness. Later, thousands more succumbed to radiation-related illnesses such as cancer, although the total number of deaths and the long-term health effects remain controversial.
“We believe that putting Chernobyl on the UNESCO heritage list is an important first step in making this great place a unique destination of interest to all mankind,” said Oleksandr Tkachenko, Ukraine’s minister of culture.
“The importance of the Chernobyl zone lies far beyond the borders of Ukraine … It is not only about commemoration, but also about history and people’s rights,” he said.
Before submitting an application to the UN, places seeking UNESCO protection must be included on a list of national cultural and historical heritage, according to the minister.
Tkachenko said his ministry had recently decided to list a huge military radar built near the city of Chernobyl in the 1970s. The possibility of expanding the app to include the entire 30 km Chernobyl Exclusion Zone was being discussed. .
Most of the area around the abandoned nuclear plant is a desert of empty buildings, brush and rubble. All buildings in Pripyat, a ghost town that was once home to 50,000 people who mostly worked at the plant, are in need of repair.
Tkachenko said he hoped that Chernobyl, which had already become a popular site for adventure tourists before the coronavirus pandemic prevented most international travel, would recover and start attracting visitors again. In 2019, HBO’s Chernobyl was behind an increase in the number of visitors to the power plant and nearby Pripyat, with 120,000 people visiting the area.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism