Sunday, 03 April 2016 16:54

"What other choice do we have?"

Written by  Urs Fitze

30 years after the chernobyl disaster life in the contaminated areas of Belarus seems to be back to normal. But the reality is much harsher.




Ludmilla Kmyr, farmer in Dubowyi Log

The heavily contaminated village of Dubowyi Log is located in the exclusion zone. Any form of settlement or agriculture is prohibited. Despite this, 50 of the once 1,000 inhabitants have returned and are attempting to survive. The exclusion zone in Belarus now covers an area of 2,650 square kilometres, but a total of 47,000 square kilometres – more than the size of Switzerland – is contaminated. The state research institute of radiology assists people returning to Dubowyi Log out of pragmatic acceptance of the facts on the ground. It has since succeeded in producing high-quality beef with radiation values in the permissible range. And yet the people here expose their own health to dangerous radiation. The physicist Mikhail Malko from the National Academy of Sciences in Minsk statistically analysed the cancer registry and concluded that approximately 1,000 people die annually in Belarus from radiated-related cancer. The highly contaminated regions are far more affected by this. Korsak Sergey Stanislavovich, director of the central district hospital in Buda-Koshelevo, reported on a five-member family who returned to a contaminated region, all of whom have been diagnosed with radiation-related illness. He says this is the rule rather than the exception. He recommends telling people the bald truth and helping them make the best out of a difficult situation. But instead of this happening, government measures are being continuously cut back, and it would appear as though the dictatorial regime has gotten over the reality: tens of thousands have died, hundreds of thousands are chronically ill. And in the meanteam, Russia's state-owned Rusatom is now building the first nuclear power plant in Belarus.




Radiological map ot the Belarus District with the caesium - 137 contamination in the years 1986, 2016 an d2056. the darkest sectors are so heavy contaminated, that any lving and agriculture is forbidden.

Read more from Belarus:

Tatjana Chartonowitsch, sales assistant and strawberry farmer: "I would like my children to get away from here" 

Alexey Nesterenko, ecologist, Institute of Radiation Safety (BELRAD), Minsk:  "Our grandchildren will be hit the hardest"

Titok Alexander Ivanovich, chairman of the Executive Committee in the Khoiniki district in southeastern Belarus: "This is all good news"

Alexander Zaitsev, director of the Research Institute of Radiology, Gomel, Belarus: “It’s about trust”

Vadim Shilko, journalist: "Chernobyl is history. Unfortunately."





Living in the evacuation zone (all images: Urs Fitze)

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Deformed Nature: Spider Webs in the Evacuatin Zone (all images: Timothy Mousseau

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Vassili Alexejewitsch Marchinko: nuclear engineer, liquidator, contaminated by radiation

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Founded in 2012, the Association for Sustainable Journalism on the Internet is committed to high-quality, independent on-line journalism that stands the test of time. The association promotes and runs journalistic websites dedicated to topics that are hardly covered any more in conventional media. Its members include journalists, photographers, designers and web designers.

Pressbüro Seegrund, which was founded in 1989, is firmly established in the media landscape. Its focus is on feature reports, reportage and non-fiction books. It has launched a number of online magazines in recent years including,, and the latest creation:


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English translation:
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Russian translation:
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Local interpretors: Galina Kovalch (Belarus),
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Martin Arnold, freelance journalist, author and media entrepreneur for the past 30 years
Urs Fitze, freelance journalist, reportage on politics, the economy, science, travel and the environment" target="_blank">,



Our Aim

Without provoking or causing a scandal, wants to shake things up a bit by encouraging society to reflect on a subject that affects all of us: nuclear power. It is a subject that polarises, turning opponents and supporters into ideologues. And it is a subject that divides the informed and the uninformed in a way that creates intentional and unintentional dependencies. Against the background of the current debates on the 'energy transition', we want to contribute a critical discussion for all those who want to more know about nuclear power. And we want to do our bit to overcome the deep ideological divide that separates supporters and opponents. When it comes to this subject, the truth very quickly becomes relative – or is made relative. You move around in an area where experts, opinion makers, ideologues, affected persons, victims, lobbyists, politicians and world saviours jostle against each other. Everyone should be able to have their say, to tell their truth. The truth of the radiation victims as well as that of the power plant operators, the supporters and the opponents. The second objective of the book is to explore the many facets of truth – and remain receptive to all those who want to make it comfortable for us.

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