There will be no revelation: the dirtiest city on the planet is overgrown with greenery

A photograph: Valery ZVONAREV

Residents of the small industrial town of Karabash in the Chelyabinsk region have long been accustomed to jokes about the third horns on cows and mushrooms with eyes. And in the search you will find a million links to the dirtiest city on the planet. Industrialists came to these places in the early 20th century to mine ores. Without thinking much about the environmental consequences, they cut down trees on the slopes and organized a business. Factory emissions, settling, soaked the soil from the outside, and sulfur-saturated effluent hit these soils from the inside. It is not difficult to imagine that the orange copper color absorbed very quickly all water bodies and surfaces.

In the early 2000s, work began on modernizing the plant itself – cleaning gas, sewage and waste treatment. And then began a completely unprecedented project to restore the environment.

We went to Karabash to see what is happening to the city today and saw the first results of repairing the damage that has accumulated over the last century here.

critical moment

Now Karabash is no longer recognizable. New photos on the internet are gradually replacing the old industrial landscapes. The turning point came in 2004, when the modernization of production at the factory began. For several years, the new owners managed to reduce emissions by 25 times! And the result did not have to wait long. Bald Mountain, also called Gold because of the fact that gold is mined in it, or Poklonnaya because of the cross at the top, began to grow with trees.

After the broadcasts stopped, the gray slopes began to turn green and overgrown with trees.

After the broadcasts stopped, the gray slopes began to turn green and overgrown with trees.

A photograph: Valery ZVONAREV

It can be seen how the green branches seem to cling to each other and gradually climb to the top. So far, there is not much green, but these are the first shoots in the last 100 years. Not only trees grow – the hills are covered with grass, giving them a pleasing green tinge to the eye.

– We already see that the trees start to grow slowly, but in the future the trees will cover the slopes of the mountains, – HE SPEAKS Vice President of Environmental and Industrial Safety of the Russian Copper Company Natalia Gonchar. “Our main task is to help nature recover. We divided the slope of Mount Zolotaya into sections that were more exposed to man-made impact, acid runoff flowing from them. Each area has chosen its own direction of recovery.

Soviet-era waste is reliably isolated and sown with grass.  In the future, they can be obtained and used.

Soviet-era waste is reliably isolated and sown with grass. In the future, they can be obtained and used.

A photograph: Valery ZVONAREV

The most difficult, technical part, on the slope of the Golden Mountain, is already completed. Bulldozers dig drainage channels so that harmful runoff no longer goes to water bodies. In addition, the whole field will be planted with birches and the industrial hill will become an ordinary forest.

NO LONGER LIKE THE MOON

One of the most serious problems for industrial cities is getting rid of so-called “production queues” – what was left of production was simply stored for years. Such views were called lunar landscapes by locals and tourists. But there is no trace of them left. Garbage in Karabash is also being recovered.

Now the technical stage of the works is in progress in the third straw garbage dump of 45 acres. The Soviet-era waste site is inspected first, except for leaching and corrosion of harmful substances. Then the biological stage will begin: fertile soil will be introduced and perennial grasses will be planted.

They refused to plant trees in these places, as the roots can destroy the tightness of the structure.

The first landfill, which was re-cultivated in Karabash 2 years ago – the so-called Homeless – was covered with a thick layer of grass this spring. It is now an ordinary green hill. Next to it, however, is Mount Karabash, which now looks more like a landfill. It is actually a rock. The company’s ecologists dream of greening it.

Natalia Gonchar, Vice President of RCC for Environmental and Industrial Safety, points to a lush hill with landfills beneath it.

Natalia Gonchar, Vice President of RCC for Environmental and Industrial Safety, points to a lush hill with landfills beneath it.

A photograph: Valery ZVONAREV

On the opposite side, the area of ​​the first landfill and Mount Karabash is green, which will also be recovered.

On the opposite side, the area of ​​the first landfill and Mount Karabash is green, which will also be recovered.

A photograph: Valery ZVONAREV

Supervises landscaping work Director of the Chelyabinsk Botanical Garden at Chelyabinsk State University, Candidate of Biological Sciences Vera Merker.

– It is difficult to imagine that it was a tailappreciated the result of a herbalist. – They look comfortable and green. But in front of us is another image of a supposedly unsustainable area – Mount Karabash near the factory. But it also has plans for landscaping. Although now it is clear rock. Everything we see – green plants, recovered areas – is life.

Botanist Vera Merker and chief bioplateau engineer Alexander Petrov.

Botanist Vera Merker and chief bioplateau engineer Alexander Petrov.

A photograph: Valery ZVONAREV

SMALL VERSALES

Another misfortune of Karabash is the Sak-Elga river. Its reddish hue is constantly reminiscent of the Karabash copper past. Now the river is not used, since in a modern business the same technical water is collected, purified and returned to production. However, the river itself is unable to recover and needs the help of environmentalists. The experts found the best solution for this place – to create a hydro-botanical site.

The project’s chief engineer, Alexander Petrov, can not hide his joy and anticipation for the future transformation. It shows a picture of a reservoir waterfall and calls this place “Little Versailles” in Karabash.

The river Sak-Elga in the past and in the future.  Photo: reservoir waterfall project.

The river Sak-Elga in the past and in the future. Photo: reservoir waterfall project.

– The waterfall will extend almost to Red Creek, – HE SPEAKS Alexander Petrov. – And it will be covered with aquatic vegetation – reeds, reeds. This year we will block the river to create a low pressure dam. According to our calculations, it will export up to half a ton of metals, mainly iron. During the exploitation of the bioplate, the river will naturally clear.

It’s hard to believe, but a reservoir waterfall will appear on the Sak-Elga River in the spring of 2023 – in the next flood. But now it is already clear that canals are being dug on the right bank and a green lawn has appeared on the left. To understand where the “before” photos were taken, you need to look and compare for a long time.

So far, the nature of Karabash is very opposite.  You can find beautiful views of the green.

So far, the nature of Karabash is very opposite. You can find beautiful views of the green.

A photograph: Valery ZVONAREV

HOW THE SADNESS OF THE CITY WAS FLOODED

A photo near the city pond in Karabash is definitely taken by all the visitors of the city – with a background of water pipes and factories. Once the tank had a technical purpose, but now it is just a tourist attraction.

A photograph: Valery ZVONAREV

In 2021, the lake was renovated for the first time in 60 years. It was drained, cleaned and refilled with water. We have now begun to improve the coasts. This summer, a floating fountain of light and music will be put into operation on the lake.

The lake is no longer empty - the Karabas like to walk here.

The lake is no longer empty – the Karabas like to walk here.

A photograph: Valery ZVONAREV

The modern Karabash is comfortable and welcoming. A spacious square with a fountain appeared in the city center, a shopping complex with a cinema hall for entertainment, a sports complex and a stadium, a swimming pool will open soon and the first houses of the modern small area are occupied.

It turned out that it was much easier to organize people’s lives than to revive nature that was destroyed by man. This requires decades and billions of investments. But it is now clear that Karabash has every opportunity for an environmentally friendly future.

______________________________________________

Karabash city – one of the historic centers of domestic non-ferrous metallurgy. The extraction and production of copper on an industrial scale in the surrounding areas began in 1910 with the establishment of the Karabash copper metallurgy. Due to the imperfection of technology and the lack of properly organized treatment facilities for decades, the intensively increasing production had a negative impact on the environment. This has led to the accumulation of significant environmental damage in the Okrug area, which continues to adversely affect the condition of the soil, air and water bodies in the area.

The restoration of disturbed soils in the territory of the Karabash urban area was made possible due to the large-scale modernization of the successor of the former Karabash copper smelter, the Karabashmed copper smelter. It became part of the Russian Copper Company in 2004. Since then, the company has launched a large-scale technical re-equipment, with the aim of increasing production capacity and improving the environmental safety of production.

Archival photo of the Karabash Local History Museum, 1910

Archival photo of the Karabash Local History Museum, 1910

In 2018, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation, the Federal Office of Natural Resources Surveillance, the government of the Chelyabinsk region and the JSC Russian Copper Company signed a quadripartite agreement to improve the environmental situation in the urban area of ​​Karabash. The total investment of the company in the restoration is about 2 billion rubles. The total area of ​​the uncultivated areas is over 220 hectares.

Leave a Comment