Ecology in Belarus: a chance for Pripyat'
Disappearance is threatening the Pripyatsky marshes - the last virgin marsh landscape on the European continent.

WWW Belarus object to drainage of this biggest swamped area in Europe.

We aim at saving the biggest and the most valued marsh lakes, water-meadows and peatbogs of Europe in the Polesskaya lowland.

The point is that 175.000 hectares of swamped areas near the river Pripyat' are planned to be drined and turned into agricaltural land. This is supposed to compensate the loss of useful agricaltural lands, polluted by radio-activity.

For realizing this gigantic project the Byelorussian Goverment has already inquired the World Bank about a billion dolars credit.

It is necessary for agricaltural lands to appear just on the place where the Pripyatsky marshes are located now?

Could the needs of Byelorussian population in provisions and the saving of unigue European swamped landscape fail to coincide?

If to look at Pripyatsky marshes from the height of a bird's flight, a majestic picture can be seen: the gigantic water spaces, lakes, water-meadows, swamps.

A lot of specimens of flora and fauna, which are rare or became extinct in other places, can be met here. These places are the centres of populations of such birds as a spotted eagle, a corcrake and a reed-warbler. Take a reed-warber, for aexample, we can see what catastrophic consequences could be made by drainage of Pripyatsky marshes. This small grey and brown bird with a shrill voice used to be wide-spred in Europe: from France to Ural. Novadays in many countries a reed-warbler is extinct or at risk of disappearance.

A drainage of marches, overgrown with reed is the reason of it.

For the last 30 years population of the reed-warbler has been decreasing on 90 per cent in Belarus. The matter is, that during this period millons hectares of marshes have been drained. However today's the biggest population of the reed-warbler inhabit the untouched watermarshes of Pripyat'. Drainage will simply destroy this population.

As a resalt, tens thousand differents ducks, corncrakes, thousands storks, which are still inhabiting the flood-lands of the river, will disappear. Traditional means of agriculture, especialy cattle-breeding, which use the water-meadows, will suffer from this. There is a correlation between the diversity of species, inhabited here and agricaltural traditions. The rare species are bred on the meadows, where the cattle pulled the grass out.

In some places drainage work is being done already. Every day buckets of excavators gnaw the land. We can imagine consequences of this activity: rare species of flora and fauna have disappeared, ecologically important water balance is broken. Drained areas are seen around: in some years they will lose their fertility, and then we will have to put into practice artificial irrigation. We can't but see that it will tel on the climate. If all the plans on the drinnage of half of marshed areas are realized, the result of peat mineralization, to atmosphere will be thown almost as much carbonic acid as it is thrown by all motorcars in Germany per year.

"There were fertile soils here, but now I have to plough pure sand" - says a tractor driver who has been already cultivating drained ground for 15 years. Enlargement of agricultural areas in this way is nonsense both economically and ecologically.

In Westen Europe people have realized it today. We and Byelorussian scientists, and conservationists try to prove that there are other ways. They work in two directions. Firstly, they explore the places where a reed-warbler, which is put in the Byelorussian Red Book, lives. Secondly, they work out the conseption of creating of large natural reserves. The areas have been already marked on the map and are temporally under protection.
The natural reserves call for saving the ecologically sensitive landscapes of Pripyat' from destruction.
A prominent conference will be held in Belarus in May. It will be devoted to strategy of deciding the problems of Pripyatsky marshes. The representatives of Byelorussian Goverment will take part in it.
The photographs of the areas which were drained some years ago will be shown to the participants. Much streght and money was spent for it.

Today the drainge canals and buched elevators are on the decline. But we could get more useful areas with less expences. We just need far-sighted decisions. This is to the large extent related to the World Bank.

WWW Belarus, Editorial Staff.

Translated by Olga&Lyuba Tishkova
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