Looking at photos of the shimmering turquoise lake that stars in Instagram accounts like maldives_nsk and sup_novosibirsk, you might assume you’re seeing vacation-goers in the Carribean. You’d be wrong.
They’re standing next to a toxic dump in Novosibirsk, a city in Siberia. And the local coal plant that pumps waste into the human-made pond wants people taking selfies there to know it.
“You can not swim in the ash dump,” Siberian Generating Company (SGK) wrote in a translated statement posted to Russia social network VKontakteon. “Skin contact with such water may cause an allergic reaction!”
Many of the photos at the lake dubbed Novosibirsk Maldives feature smiling people canoeing or paddle-boarding through water swirled in jewel-toned blues and greens. Sunbathers on the shore pose in bathing suits and shorts and do yoga poses. Couples hold hands and kiss.
But the site’s not as idyllic as it looks.
Novosibirsk Maldives’ postcard-worthy shade comes from its chemical composition — ashes as deep as 6.5 feet (2 meters) and metal oxides dissolved in the water, the company said. The ashes resulting from burning coal at the station are mixed with water and enter the ash dump through pipes.
“This is NOT a natural lake,” SGK stressed in its statement. “This is … a hydraulic structure.”
The company also warned that the bottom of that structure is so muddy it’s “almost impossible” to get out.
Though SGK posted its warnings online a month ago, and a few signs around the area alert visitors of the water’s dangers as well, pictures snapped at Novosibirsk Maldives continue to populate Instagram.
This isn’t, of course, the first time Instagrammers eager for a perfect selfie shot have been warned about taking photos in dangerous or awkward places. They’ve been told not to take risky “tiger selfies” and to be respectful at the site where the Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred. And they’ve been reminded that maybe, just maybe, funerals aren’t the most appropriate place to take vanity shots.