Man-made and natural disasters

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Abstract

Man-made disasters are devastating outcomes from human activities which have far reaching negative impacts on the environment, human life, and the economy as well. These impacts are also similar to the results of natural disasters. As a result, this study aimed at assessing the impacts of Chernobyl Nuclear Plant disaster and the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 1986 and 2011 respectively. The two incidents share similarities in that risk and assessment apply to indicate that larger damage could have resulted had the Earthquake in Japan’s case been on the dry land or had the Ukraine’s government failed to evacuate residents from the radiation coverage area. However, the study finds that Japan can restore some of its economic glory unlike the case with Chernobyl which is rendered unsafe for human, plant, and animal survival for at least 200 years.

Introduction

Human activities and their direct impact on the environment as well as the lives of plants, humans, and animals are among the man-made issues that have rocked the world in recent and past periods. Natural disasters on the other hand, have been associated with the same magnitude of losses among them the loss of life, livelihood, plant & animal life, and economic depressions. Nonetheless, the history of disasters shows that both man-made and natural disasters have the same devastating capacities but the differences in occurrence make each unique following the set of factors involved. This study illustrates the details of the Chernobyl Power Plant Explosion of 1986 as well as the TohoKu Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 as man-made and natural disasters respectively.

Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, 1986

The Chernobyl Power Plant Explosion of 1986 is regarded one among the deadliest nuclear plant disasters and the only one that lead to direct exposure of radioactive material to residents of the surrounding areas. Unlike other nuclear disasters which have gone in record for having been destroyed by other factors such Fukushima which resulted in minor leakages following an earthquake, the Chernobyl case is different in that direct human involvement in the construction, management, and destruction were the only reasons for its explosion. However, while human involvement was the only cause of the explosion and release of radioactive materials to the environment, the consequences of the event and the immediate impact on the environment have influenced a wave of problems among them human deaths, birth of children with defects, lost economic potential, and rendered the area unsafe for the survival of human, plant, and animal life (Hatch et al. 2005).

With reference to human life, the Chernobyl Disaster was responsible for the deaths of 28 of the 600 onsite workers through severe exposure to radiations. In addition, following the incident, the Ukraine Government evacuated 115,000 people in fear of further contaminations and radiation exposure. Plant and animal lives were also affected in that contamination of the soil and water led to the deaths of animals and plants and rendered the place unsafe for growing or rearing animals (Hatch et al. 2005). On the land use of the region, the risk and assessment efforts indicate that the area would not be habitable for the next 200 years from the day of the nuclear disaster. This assessment shows that the disaster was not only lethal, but left a permanent mark on the environment as no human activities can be carried out around the disaster area (Hatch et al. 2005).

Years after exposure, the risk and assessment efforts identified that the region would not be safe for habilitation until two centuries later. However, those exposed to radiation were observed to have developed a variety of health issues among them Thyroid Cancer and led to birth defects on ne born babies. However, the Thyroid cancer is among the significant outcomes of the disaster and has since been a major secondary cause of death to those exposed. Consequently, the government of Ukraine also suffered an economic blow since the development and management of nuclear plants aims at improving the economic standards by investing on renewable energy. The investment funds as well as the objectives of the project all suffered a permanent blow and also influenced the development of better nuclear plant management strategies (Hatch et al. 2005).

Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami 2011

Natural disasters occur naturally in most circumstances but at the same time can have human influence leading them. With the effects of human activities on the environment, scholars rule out incidents such as floods, droughts, and associated diseases as direct outcomes of the human activities. However, natural disasters that do not have any human influence include earthquakes which are results of plate tectonic movements, shifting of underlying rocks, or a result of volcanic activities on dry land and undersea. The Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 is one among the most devastating natural disasters which resulted in the deaths of over 15,000 people, displacement of settlements, increased risk of nuclear plant explosions at the Fukushima, damage to over 127,000 buildings and half collapsing of 270,000 buildings, and 2,562 reported cases of missing persons (Nagamura, 2013).

The Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami was a result of an earthquake of 9.0-9.1 magnitude which occurred 29 kilometers undersea. The results of the event also showcase a remarkable loss of property, lives, and production capacity of Japan in general. Nonetheless, the loss of human lives contributed to a number of issues among them loss of human resourcefulness for those holding technical roles in various organizations. In addition, the destruction of three nuclear reactors of the Fukushima Power Plant brought to a stop the economic benefits associated with the nuclear plant sending hundreds of workers away from the plant to ensure exposure of radioactive material was not resulted to. Around the power plant, settlements were abolished and the area was marked as high risk for human and animal survival. Although there were no human casualties from the nuclear plant destruction, it is observed that marine life was affected as radioactive materials seeped into the surrounding sea water (Nagamura, 2013).

Risk and assessment of the Tsunami indicate that a magnitude 9 earthquake is capable of more devastating results. However, since the epicenter of the earthquake was under the Indian Ocean, the resulting waves shifted large volumes of sea water into the dry land. This shift of water volumes resulted in the destruction of buildings and movement of debris into economic centers leading to closure of economy supporting industries, companies, and other businesses. Risk and assessment apply to this natural disaster in that it identifies that the incident was inevitable as Japan lies above one of the most geologically unstable areas in the world. Japan’s history with earthquakes also aided in combating the full magnitude of devastation as evacuation efforts influenced the movement of people from the flooding areas. Assessment of the risks also indicate that, besides the death toll and injuries, the health of the survivors was endangered and required health care supplies, food, and clean water as all these were compromised (Nagamura, 2013).

Comparison of the Two Incidents

The Chernobyl incident regarding man-made disaster and the Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami are different in occurrence but the effects are nearly the same. While the Chernobyl incident rendered a significant area unlivable, its effects are more significant as radiation is relative to the half-life of the radioactive materials. The half-life is the measure of radiation and duration of the effect which in this case is 200 years. On the Tsunami incident, the destruction of the Fukushima nuclear reactors also implanted similar outcomes to the affected residents leading to the evacuation from the area. This also rendered the area unsafe for human survival and both settlement and economic output were since put on hold. On the floods associated with the Tsunami, large residential areas were affected and buildings were destroyed making survivors mostly homeless. This disruption on human lives compares to Chernobyl’s inhabitable environment since the nuclear disaster. In addition, the two incidents are also different in that some of the impacts on Japan’s population can be offset by rebuilding as only the Fukushima area suffered radiation risks. Unlike Chernobyl, Japan can be restored economically due to its financial stability and economic developments since there is no 200-year waiting period until the affected areas are safe for rehabilitation.

Conclusion

The Chernobyl’s man-made disaster is an example of the effects human activities can create on the environment. The far reaching impact on the economy, livelihoods, and the environment show how far careless handling of economic inputs can go with reference to creating opportunities for disease manifestation. On the other hand, the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami also shows the capacity of destruction caused by the natural disasters with results indicating similarities to the Chernobyl incidents. Deaths, environmental destruction, influence on plant and animal lives, and disruption of economic outputs are among the similarities of the two incidents. However, due to the nature of the incidents, the Chernobyl disaster has near permanent outcomes as compared to the Tsunami incident as the latter can be restored through rebuilding of destroyed structured, industries, and other infrastructure.

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  1. Hatch, M., Ron, E., Bouville, A., Zablotska, L., & Howe, G. (2005). The Chernobyl disaster: cancer following the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Epidemiologic reviews27(1), 56-66.
  2. Nagamura, M. (2013). Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The Geneva Reports, 47.
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