Uravi, The ex USSR city of Arsenic mining

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Uravi, a city who has been almost abandoned after the ex USSR left the arsenic mines in a hurry…

I was shocked when I discovered the Aral sea case and the ship cemetry in Uzbekistan but now with this new discovery in Urvai I think I’ll have to give this part of history a deeper investigation.

If I summarize (otherwise it would take hours of explanation and I’m far from being an expert on this subject) at the time of USSR, the russian directors (because using “the russians” finally seems a bit unfair) would define an activity for each of their “partner”  based on the natural ressources of the country. Some of the partners would grow beetroot, others would grow potatoes, others coton (like Uzbekistan)… and others would be exploited for their mines (like Georgia).

This is the context in wich in order to increase the production of coton in Uzbekistan in the 60’s, the russian directors have rerouted both rivers that supplied the aral sea and therefore participate in the ecocatastrophe of the same name.

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Along the same lines, Uravi is a small village in the Racha district where the arsenic mines were exploited for years by the ex USSR for medicines and lazer equipment production.

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In 1991, the mines were brutaly deserted and the village abandoned. This was more than an 800 persons exode where only 50 or so of them stayed.

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Slowly, after a few research, the georgian government agreed to say that the danger existed in this area. Arsenic and asbetos have been found in the buildings, the river is polluted as much as there is not many fishes in this region and the air represents a certain danger as you find arsenic particules also in dust.

A project has therefore been set up with the help of the netherlands in order to destroy the old and contaminated buildings and the places where the arsenic used to be extracted. It’s going to take time but things are put in place. The waste of the mining activity is buried 50 cm deep into the ground and studies are still going on to define the risk that the river represents for the persons living there, the workers and the portential tourists.

In the meantime, the people of Uravi keep on living and I’ve been very amazed  to see how life took back its right in this village despite the danger that arsenic contamination represents.

I’m wondering what is the impact on food ? On disease rate in this region ? On animals ? A lot of questions that will probably never be answered.

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