More than three decades after the devastating explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, parts of Belarus’ adjoining regions have sprung back to life and at least the biggest of them, Homiel, has become a leading destination for domestic and international investors.
Sixty percent of Homiel’s produce - comprising meat, dairy products and handicraft – are exported to neighboring regions and countries while the region attracted US$17.7 billion worth of Direct Investment between 2011 and 2017, representing 15.6% percent of the country’s total DI over that period.
“In the 33 years since that tragic night, there’s been a re-thinking of the way local populations in southeastern Belarus have handled themselves. Stigma is still pervasive, but the economic revival is visible. This is a fertile and productive region and its people are open, resilient and resourceful,” said Zachary Taylor, UNDP’s Deputy Resident Representative in Belarus.
37,000 small- and medium-sized businesses now operate in the areas directly affected by the disaster, up from only 2,375 in 2002.
“But let’s not rest on our laurels. There’s much more that needs to be done to bring the area back to its full potential. We need to keep investing in training, safety, long-term development planning, new technologies, economic development, including tourism and organic farming. This is an area that’s been left behind for too long. Let’s double our efforts to make sure it catches up,” said Zack Taylor.
The disaster affected Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Around 470 small towns and villages have been destroyed in Belarus alone, with 138,000 people unrooted from their homes.
The disaster still represents a huge financial burden. In Ukraine, last year, 5 to 7 percent of the public budget was still dedicated to Chernobyl-related recovery activities. In Belarus, the associated economic loss is estimated at US$235 billion. Missed profits and investment opportunities alone are estimated at US$ 13.7 billion.
UNDP has been working with the rest of the UN system and international partners to help Chernobyl-affected areas in Belarus and Ukraine move from recovery and humanitarian support to creating new jobs, strengthening social services, improving infrastructure and communications, improving business environment and increasing investment opportunities for the local industry sectors and communities.