Environment in Belarus Essay

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The te rritory of Belarus covers 207,600 square kilometers, and it has a population of 10.2 million people. The country was declared an independent republic in September 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Subsequent reforms were slow and did not indicate rapid economic change. The first president of the independent Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, was elected in 1994 and has aimed to create a dictatorship; his politics have been criticized by the international community, especially by the European Union (EU). The outcome of the presidential elections in 2006, when Lukashenko won around 85 percent of the votes, was not approved by the international community, except Russia. Following the election, the EU banned Belarusian leaders to enter the territory of the EU.

One of the most important environmental issues is radioactivity due to the destruction at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine on April 26, 1986. Radio nuclides are deposited very heterogeneously due to weather and wind over Belarusian territory. To date, about 135,000 persons have been resettled or evacuated. Some of them have moved back to these areas with or without the right to resettle, which poses significant health problems. It is hard to estimate the total environmental toll of the nuclear catastrophe in Belarus, but a very significant share of the Belarusian flora and fauna has been affected by the deposit of Chernobyl plume.

Environmental quality in Belarus has improved since the early 1990s, but this was largely the result of a decline in economic activity. Only a little can be accredited to new production technologies and to the shift from industrial to postindustrial production. Water quality in general has been poor, and hygienic standards have not been met since the late 1980s. Water quality problems are even more serious in rural areas served by shallow wells, where the level of microbe pollution is high. High nitrate and iron content in groundwater has reported in the early 1990s, and remains a major environmental issue. Air is relatively clean in Belarus, even compared to EU countries or to the United States. Urban air pollution is low, due to the low number of vehicles.

Central institutions have played an important role in environmental issues in Belarus. National and international non governmental organizations (NGOs) have to face several difficulties posed by the central government. Complex regulation, occasional intervention from authorities, and the lack of central financial support has created difficult situation for most of the NGOs. Furthermore, their information can be distributed only if the material is registered by the authorities. Complex taxation has cut off donations significantly to environmental NGOs, therefore only a very limited sources of aid are available. In addition, collaboration with NGOs and media is not encouraged. As a result, public participation is only limited in environmental issues. Due to the increasing isolation of Belarus, that trend is likely to continue into the future.


  1. Elena Rosalind Marsh and Colin Lawson, Contemporary Belarus: Between Democracy and Dictatorship (Routledge, 2003);
  2. Karen Dawisha and Bruce Parrott, , Democratic Changes and Authoritarian Reactions in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova (Cambridge University Press, 1997).

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