First real green spring comes to Nikel – by Thomas Nilsen (The Barents Observer – June 8, 2021)

“We, ordinary people living in Nikel, are very happy. The air is fresh, leaves are green,” says Tatiana Bazanova who has lived most of her adult life in what used to be one of Europe’s most polluted towns.

The infamous nickel-smelter shut down its last furnace in late December, ending 75 years of severe industrial air pollution.

Now, locals in the town for the first time experience a real green spring with clear blue skies under the midnight sun. “I love Nikel,” states Tatiana Bazanov who has lived and worked for the local municipality most of her adult life.

“Seeing the town without pollution pleases me,” she tells in a phone interview with the Barents Observer. Today, Tatiana has been in the hills above the town, taking photos of birch trees with green leaves.

Most of the hill above the factory is dead nature. Nearly an ecological desert after generations of sulfur clouds and heavy metal pollution. A few birch trees, however, have survived but the green leaves in spring normally burned brown of acids in the air long before autumn came.

Not so this year. The factory stays like a monument of the past. No smoke coming out of the chimneys, no smell of sulfur. Nature is reclaiming its future.

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