Kiev, May 8: The Ukrainian government announced on Friday that it will establish a state natural biosphere reserve in the area neighbouring the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
"I have already signed the document on the establishment of the Chernobyl Biosphere Reserve," Igor Shevchenko, the country's ecology and natural resources minister, said at a press conference in Kiev.
Shevchenko said that the new wildlife reserve would cover an area of about 150,000 hectares and would not include the contaminated 10-km-radius territory, which surrounds the devastated nuclear power plant, Xinhua news agency reported.
The new reserve would be used primarily for scientific purposes and research, the minister said, emphasising that the site would not become a tourism destination until its safety is confirmed.
On April 26, 1986, a series of explosions occurred at the plant located 110 km north of the Ukrainian capital, resulting in the demolition of the No. 4 reactor and the spread of radiation across Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and some European countries.
The nuclear disaster forced the government to halt deforestation and livestock grazing in the large forest surrounding the plant. It has led to a substantial increase in the populations of wild animals and plants in the area. Now, Chernobyl exclusion zone is home to unique flowers and trees as well as rare bears, lynxes and deer.