Biosphere reserve for Chernobyl

07 August 2014

Ukraine expects to prepare soon a draft presidential decree on establishing a biosphere reserve in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Andrey Mokhnik, Ukraine's minister of ecology and natural resources, announced progress with preparations for the decree at a briefing with local media on 5 August. The government published his comments on its website.

Pripyat wildlife 460 (MENR)
Wildlife near Pripyat, the nearest town to the Chernobyl plant (Image: Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources)

The exclusion zone covers an area of about 262,000 hectares immediately surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant where radioactive contamination from fallout from the accident in 1986 is highest and public access and inhabitation are restricted. The zone borders a separately administered area, the Polesie state radiation and ecological reserve, to the north, in Belarus.

Covering 230,000 hectares, the biosphere reserve will include most of the exclusion zone but will not include the 32,000 hectares of industrial sites, Mokhnik said. It will be divided into a wildlife zone, a buffer zone and an anthropogenic landscape zone, he said.

"The Chernobyl area has been protected for the past 28 years and today a unique situation has developed there – both the flora and fauna are actively growing and restoring themselves," he said.

"The main objective of creating the biosphere reserve is preservation in a natural state of the typical ecosystems of Polesie in order to increase the barrier functions of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and of the zone of obligatory resettlement," Mokhnik said. "It will enable stabilization of the water regime and cleansing of the contaminated areas."

The zone has become a special area for scientific research, he said. Proof of that is the interest shown by the Global Environment Fund (GEF), which has set up a Research and Environmental Protection Centre and Protected Area. Washington DC-based GEF is a partnership for international cooperation where 183 countries work together with international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector, to address global environmental issues.

Future plans for the area also include creation of a trans-border Ukrainian-Belarusion biosphere reservoir covering about 500,000 hectares, Mokhnik said. This will include the Drevlyansky nature reserve in the Zhytomyr region of northern Ukraine and Polesie state radiation and ecological reserve. Polesie is one of the largest forest areas in Europe.

Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They originate to the Biosphere Conference organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1968.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News