Environmental issues in Ukraine
Soviet policies of raising industrial and agricultural productivity with little regard to ecological considerations have had a devastating effect on the environment. Air pollution is especially severe in such industrial centres as Zaporizhzhya, Luhans’k, and Donets’k. Industrial and agricultural pollutants have contaminated soil in the south and drinking water throughout the country. Ukraine lacks funds for recycling and conservation programs, and pollution controls remain at a minimum.
The April 1986 explosion and core meltdown of a reactor at the Chernobyl’ nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine had an enormous impact on the region’s environment (see Chernobyl’ Accident). Northern Ukraine and especially southern Belarus were the most severely contaminated areas from the radioactive plume that was released in the explosion. Radioactive materials from the accident seeped into the ground, contaminating farmland and the water supply. The long-term impact on human health and the environment is still being assessed. The four Chernobyl’ reactors, only one of which was still in operation from 1996 through 2000, continue to be a major hazard, especially to Ukraine’s water supply. The Chernobyl’ complex was finally shut down completely in December 2000, with the financial assistance of Western nations. The funds were to pay for the completion of two other nuclear power plants that would produce enough power to make up for the loss of the power supply from the Chernobyl’ plant.