Back in the 1800s, the Pripyat River basin was teeming with wildlife, a natural wetland and forest habitat stretching between the border of Ukraine and Belarus.
A century later, most of that natural habitat disappeared. The Industrial Revolution brought along deforestation, a problem devastating animal habitats across the globe. Large swaths of trees are cut down at a time, instantly destroying the homes of hundreds of species. Pripyat was no different. Trees were cut down and replaced with pasture. Lumber was sold and industry began to develop.
In total, humans have nearly halved the number of trees on the planet. But efforts were made to restore the Pripyat region, bringing back new life. And in 1977, construction of a power plant called Chernobyl began. Six years later, four nuclear reactors were complete and plans for an additional two reactors were in the works. The year was 1986 and things were looking up for the region of Pripyat.
Then on April 26 at 1:23 in the morning, everything changed.