“Almost all my classmates and friends have died…That lake is void of any living creature. Fish can’t live there….When the wind blows from that direction, it makes people feel sick. It causes high blood pressure in some, and it also brings a very strange smell.”

–Aiken Akimbekov, 1991.


This account by the 50-year-old farmer Aiken Akimbekov, a native of the village of Sarzhal near the soviet nuclear testing site Semipalatinsk-21, shows the long term effects of radiation beyond the initial devastation. The residents of the villages are showing signs of horrendous diseases and mutations – the effects of which are getting stronger in the following generations. The danger of the mutated genes spreading to the general population is so bad that the idea of a ‘genetic passport’ for the effected is being mooted

As the chatter around nuclear deterrence and ever evolving nuclear technology picks up once more between India and Pakistan, it is easy to get lost in the nationalism and posturing surrounding the subject. A fact that is common across the borders. It is at this moment – when an arms race is being provoked - that we must remember the true fallout of the “nuclear option”.