A June 5 report by Grozny journalist Liza Abdurashidova for the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting discussed the ecological damage that Chechnya has suffered during a decade of upheaval, war, terrorism, illicit oil-drilling and pilferage of radioactive substances.
Maksim Yakovenko, deputy minister of the environment for the Russian Federation, told the journalist that 20,000 or more tons of oil may have leaked into the tiny republic’s soil since 1994. Another environmental specialist said that oil and oil derivatives in Chechnya’s subsoil waters may leak into the Terek River and from there into the Caspian Sea.
Of the fifty-six government facilities in Chechnya that once used what scientists call “sources of ionizing radiation,” thirty-six have been completely destroyed. Nobody can tell just what has become of their radioactive materials. In November 2000, radioactivity levels in one Grozny neighborhood were found to be ten times higher than normal.
Doctors in Chechnya believe that the deteriorating environment is one of the reasons, though not the only one, for the growing rates of prenatal and neonatal illnesses and deaths. Of the 521 babies born in Grozny since the beginning of 2003, twenty-nine have already died. “Every month at least one child is born with a hereditary defect,” said the head doctor of Grozny’s First Maternity Hospital. Some 80 percent of pregnant women are found to be ill.