Let's explore some of Russia's (and the world's) most polluted cities, such as Norilsk, 2875km east of Moscow, in Siberia, at the edge of the Arctic circle, where the temperatures can drop to -60°C in winter, Dzerzhinsk about 380km further east, or Murmansk and the Kola Peninsula. In Norilsk the snow turns black, and is discoloured yellow across a 30km radius, and the air tastes sour from sulphurous fumes. It is a closed city, but one which my Comedia colleague Phil Wood had the pleasure to visit. Like 90 other towns and cities, it is normally off-limits to foreigners. The authorities say that this restriction is to protect Norilsk from Azerbaijani traders flocking to this economic zone. Others argue it has more to do with hiding highly unpleasant facts. A former Soviet penal colony, safety was never a concern. Norilsk, with a population of 230,000, is home to the world's biggest nickel mine and known for industrial pollution so severe it drifts over to Canada. Evidence of Norilsk's activities has also been found on polar ice. The city itself is a paradise compared to what goes on in the plants, where workers wear respirators as fumes giddy the senses and where 'workers' lives have, over several decades, been remorselessly put upon the sacrificial block'.77 Chimney stacks to the south, east, north and west mean the city is hit by pollution whatever way the wind blows. The appalling conditions mean the average life expectancy is ten years below the Russian average and the men in the mines live barely beyond 50. Norilsk produces 14.5 per cent of all factory pollution in Russia,78 an astonishing fact given Russia's poor pollution record. Each day the stacks blurt out 5000 tonnes of sulphur dioxides into the sky. The lure, however, is the high wages.
One of around 600,000 bunkers in Albania: these are often in the most unlikely urban settings, built under Enver Hoxha's leadership to control the population
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