01 May 2005

The Aral Sea

As you probably know, the Aral Sea in Central Asia has been drying up for nearly 50 years as a result of massive irrigation projects implemented by the Soviet Union. The Aral Sea lies in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. It has shrunk by well over 50 percent. It is supposed to be fed by the Syr Darya and Amu Darya. The region around the Aral Sea has suffered in many ways as a result.

Uzbekistan, where the Amu Darya "flows" into the Aral, appears to be concerned about the problem, but not enough to do much about it. As a result, most of the Aral Sea may well disappear. Kazakhstan, however, is taking some action.

Kazakhstan has built Dike Kokaral in the Aral Sea just south of where the Syr Darya flows in. The purpose is to keep refill that small part of the Sea and not let the water from the Syr Darya be wasted by evaporation. The dike is designed to allow water to overflow when the North Aral Sea has filled to a satisfactory level. Kazakhstan has also worked to decrease the amount of water taken from the Syr Darya in Kazakhstan.

This project can in no way refill the Aral Sea. Uzbekistan has to do something about the Amu Darya. Some in Uzbekistan are angry about the dike though. Why don't they do something about their end instead of being crossat Kazakhstan?

The dike has been difficult to build. It was washed away and rebuilt several times in the 1990s. The current dike was begun in 2003 and funded in large part by the World Bank. I can't find anything from the last year about it though. The best I could find is that it was still being worked on in late 2004. I'm assuming it's not finished yet.

The trouble here is that the Syr Darya and Amu Darya are the two major rivers in Central Asia. Farming and increased population have stressed the rivers. It is very likely that even without the Soviet irrigation projects the Aral Sea would still be in danger. Water issues will increasingly become major political issues, especially in more arid regions of the world, like the western US, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Potable water is a necessity of life.

4 comments:

  1. This reminds me of our trip to Alaska. While on an inland tour boat, (Thor and I were the only 2 passengers) the captain informed us more intimately of the effects of global warming on the Alaskan glaciers. He pointed out the receding borders and where they used to be just last year and where they were five years ago and back to his childhood days. It's a tragic reality.

    Thanks for another very interesting post. I am headed to your links for more info.

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  2. Hi I'm a student from Singapore. I was just researching about the ecological disaster of the aral sea for geography when a search on yahoo led me to your blog. I'm just wondering what it is to be living in one of the affected countries and knowing that the aral sea is just gonna get worse and no one is doing anything about it? I read that a lot of people have went there to investigate the problem, but so far, nothing has come out.I also read of a common saying there that if every specialist brought with them a bucket of water, the sea will be filled again. I'm just really curious, how is life there really like, especially with the aral sea drying up and no one doing anything? especially about the fact that a lot of people seems to term the disaster as 'the drying up of the aral sea', and ignoring the health and social problems it is causing the people. And if you were around at that time, how was it like when your country separated from the USSR?

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  3. Hi I'm a student from Singapore. I was just researching about the ecological disaster of the aral sea for geography when a search on yahoo led me to your blog. I'm just wondering what it is to be living in one of the affected countries and knowing that the aral sea is just gonna get worse and no one is doing anything about it? I read that a lot of people have went there to investigate the problem, but so far, nothing has come out.I also read of a common saying there that if every specialist brought with them a bucket of water, the sea will be filled again. I'm just really curious, how is life there really like, especially with the aral sea drying up and no one doing anything? especially about the fact that a lot of people seems to term the disaster as 'the drying up of the aral sea', and ignoring the health and social problems it is causing the people. And if you were around at that time, how was it like when your country separated from the USSR?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi,
    I'm a college student writing a report on the Aral Sea and I was wondering if you have any books or articles you think I should read about it? I am currently reading Chasing the Sea by Bissell. Any other suggestions would be great. I'm at thisdesertlife04@yahoo.com

    Thanks!!
    Mel

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