Karabash has been described as the most polluted town in Russia as it is home to the Russian Copper Company's main smelter. Karabash, Russia. 23/10/2009.
The Ural region is Russia’s industrial belt with industrial origins stretching back to the reign of Peter the Great who recognised the potential of the ore lying inside the surrounding mountains.
Throughout Russia’s history, The Urals wealth has saved Russia. During the Second World War, The Ural industrial region was out of reach for Nazi bombers, allowing Russia to rebuild its military strength. The region brought much needed foreign currency exchange during the Soviet period and most recently, has contributed to the,” Economic miracle” of this decade. The price to pay has been enormous, environmental and social scars litter this part of the Russian Steppe.
Karabash is Russia’s, “Dirtiest Town”, some have gone as far to say it could well be the filthiest town in the world. Looks are very deceiving.
On the approach, Karabash is surrounded by the foothills of the Urals, covered with forests of Birch and a supposed clean recreational lake, complete with an ice cream van. Turn the corner, a new reality of a treeless landscape of, “Dead Zones “ show how toxic the stinging white sky of pollutants being belched out by the Russian Copper Company. The pollution is so harsh that your throat and eyes sting, your clothes have to be thrown away once you leave the town.
Karabash is only working at half capacity as economic reforms have made half the workforce redundant, forcing families to abandon their once state owned wooden, “Slum Apartments” for opportunities elsewhere.
The remaining population toil in the, ‘Hot Production” plant but have been moved to higher ground, a little further away from the plant, the air might not sting so much but only 27% of the population is considered healthy. The Russian Copper was obliged to move the population as a condition of securing loans from European banks as a certain percentage of the loan had to be earmarked for environmental programmes.