Остров Возрождения: The Russian Gift – Anthrax and Bubonic plague aplenty
Located in the central Aral Sea, Vozrozhdeniya Island was one of the main laboratories and testing sites for the Soviet Union’s Microbiological Warfare Group. In 1948, a top-secret Soviet bioweapons laboratory was established here, which tested a variety of agents, including anthrax, smallpox, plague, brucellosis, and tularemia.
In the 1990s, word of the island’s danger was spread by Soviet defectors, including Ken Alibek, the former head of the Soviet Union’s bioweapons program. It was here, according to recently released documents, that anthrax spores and bubonic plague bacilli were made into weapons and stored. The main town on the island was Kantubek, which lies in ruins today, but once had approximately 1,500 inhabitants.
The laboratory staff members abandoned the small island in 1992. Many of the containers holding the spores were not properly stored or destroyed, and over the last decade many of these containers have developed leaks.
In 2002, through a project organized by the United States and with Uzbekistan assistance, 10 anthrax burial sites were decontaminated. According to the Kazakh Scientific Center for Quarantine and Zoonotic Infections, all burial sites of anthrax were decontaminated.
* Vozrozhdeniya Island – Автор: Lambert M. Surhone, Издательство: Книга по Требованию, 2010г. ISBN: 978-6-1312-0906-2
The ecosystems of the Aral Sea and the river deltas feeding into it have been nearly destroyed, not least because of the much higher salinity.
The receding sea has left huge plains covered with salt and toxic chemicals – the results of weapons testing, industrial projects, pesticides and fertilizer runoff – which are picked up and carried away by the wind as toxic dust and spread to the surrounding area.
The land around the Aral Sea is heavily polluted, and the people living in the area are suffering from a lack of fresh water and health problems, including high rates of certain forms of cancer and lung diseases. Respiratory illnesses, including tuberculosis (most of which is drug resistant) and cancer, digestive disorders, anemia, and infectious diseases are common ailments in the region. Liver, kidney and eye problems can also be attributed to the toxic dust storms.
Health concerns associated with the region are a cause for an unusually high fatality rate amongst vulnerable parts of the population. There is a high child mortality rate of 75 in every 1,000 newborns and maternity death of 12 in every 1,000 women.
Crops in the region are destroyed by salt being deposited onto the land. Vast salt plains exposed by the shrinking Aral have produced dust storms, making regional winters colder and summers hotter.
The Aral Sea (Kazakh: Арал Теңізі Aral Teñizi; Uzbek: Orol Dengizi; Russian: Аральскοе Мοре Aral’skoye More; Tajik: Баҳри Арал Bakhri Aral; Persian: دریاچه خوارزم Daryâche-ye Khârazm) was a lake that lay between Kazakhstan (Aktobe and Kyzylorda provinces) in the north and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, in the south. The name roughly translates as “Sea of Islands“, referring to more than 1,534 islands that once dotted its waters.
Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square kilometres (26,300 sq mi), the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects.
The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters“. The region’s once prosperous fishing industry has been essentially destroyed, bringing unemployment and economic hardship.
In January 1994, the countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan signed a deal to pledge 1% of their budgets to helping the sea recover.
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