Ben Smith July 10th
2019

The president of Ukraine has announced that the area surrounding Chernobyl – the site of the world’s most devastating nuclear accident – is to be transformed into a tourist site. President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree this week that set out plans for new tourist-friendly facilities such as walking trails and enhanced mobile phone reception. Increased media attention has led to a sharp increase in the number of visitors to the area which was once the centre of a 1,000-square-mile exclusion zone.

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Making the announcement, Zelensky said, “We must give this territory of Ukraine a new life. Until now, Chernobyl was a negative part of Ukraine's brand. It's time to change it."

On April 26 1986, a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant exploded, causing 32 immediate deaths and a region-wide evacuation. Millions of people were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, leading to 9,000 cancer-related deaths (by 2005) according to UN statistics. Greenpeace estimated 200,000 casualties – taking into account all health problems related to the disaster.

For over two decades, authorities have been monitoring the exclusion zone around the reactor, including the city of Pripyat which was once home to 50,000 citizens.

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In a statement shared on his official website, Zelensky stated: "Chernobyl is a unique place on the planet where nature revives after a global man-made disaster, where there is a real "ghost town". We have to show this place to the world: scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists."

He added: "First of all, we will create a "green corridor" for tourists."

Despite the high radiation levels, Chernobyl is visited by thousands of tourists every year. Yet, many complain about corruption – a point that was also addressed by the president who stated: “The exclusion zone is also a symbol of corruption. This includes bribes that law enforcers collect from tourists. We will stop all of this very soon."

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