Sunday, June 26, 2022

In the “most depressing city” with low life expectancy, permafrost and blood red river

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Built on a former Soviet prison camp where 18,000 prisoners died in its infrastructure, the “most depressing city in the world” is one of the most polluted in the world

A remote Russian town built on a former Soviet prison camp with a life expectancy 10 years below the national average has been called “the world’s most depressing”.

Located in the Arctic permafrost, the city has 45 days of uninterrupted darkness per year, average January temperatures of -30°C, a blood-red river, and pollution levels so high that the life expectancy of its residents is reduced to 59 years.

Norilsk is the world’s northernmost city, as well known for its mining as it is for its pollutants. It is located in the Krasnoyarsk Krai region of Siberia in eastern Russia.

The city of over 170,000, which only got proper internet connectivity in 2017, has no roads leading there and a freight train running in and out of it.

The nearest port town of Dudinka, 40 miles away, offers access by sea but is frozen over in winter.

The only year-round access route is to fly in on a five-hour flight from Moscow, 1,800 miles away.

For about two-thirds of the year, the city and its environs are blanketed in snow, with temperatures previously hitting record lows of -53.1C.

In summer, on the other hand, the sun does not set for 65 days.

The history of Norilsk began in the early 20th century when a geologist discovered rich deposits of nickel, copper and cobalt at the foot of the Putorana Mountains.

The city sits atop the world’s largest deposits of nickel-copper-palladium, and from 1936 the USSR spent 20 years building a massive mining complex in the mountains, using around 500,000 forced laborers from a nearby gulag.

Working in terrible conditions in the arctic permafrost, 18,000 of the prisoners died.

Today, almost everyone in the city has a connection to the plant, which produces one-fifth of the world’s nickel, more than half of the world’s palladium, and 2% of Russia’s total annual GDP.

However, having such a tremendous job generator in the city comes at a terrible cost as the city is the most polluted city in Russia and one of the ten most polluted cities in the world.

Each year, the nickel factory pumps out more than two million tons of toxic gases, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon, phenols and more.

About 1% of total global sulfur dioxide emissions come from this one city.

Not only does this cause acid rain, killing many of the surrounding trees, but it also takes a devastating toll on the residents of Norilsk.

Cancer rates in the city are also twice as high as in the rest of Russia.

A health study found that rates of blood disorders in children in Norilsk are 44% higher than the average child in Siberia, while rates of nervous system disorders are 38% higher and bone and muscle disorders are 28% higher.

In September 2016, the nearby Daldykan River turned blood red, with the more likely attribution being a runoff at the nearby smelter.

On June 3, 2020, a river outside Norilsk turned blood red again after a massive diesel spill was caused by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel.

The spill of more than 20,000 tons of diesel into the Ambarnaya after a fuel reservoir collapse at a power plant prompted Vladimir Putin to declare a state of emergency and criticize the subsidiary.

As intriguing as the reasons for living and working in the city are, Norilsk Nickel employees can earn more than £800 a month, compared to the national average of less than £600.

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The company also says it is trying to reduce pollution and announced a $14 billion investment in a new major development program in 2017.

This ambitious plan aimed to cut sulfur dioxide emissions in and around Norilsk by 75 percent by 2023.

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