Aral Sea disaster: in 50 years entire sea gone

Aral Sea used to be 4th largest lake in the world but because of intensive cotton irrigation it’s vaporized. In 50 years entire sea gone. What used to be developed region turned into poverty and ecological disaster.

Aral sea located between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia. This is endorheic (landlocked) salt water lake. There was two primary inflows: Syrdarya and Amudarya rivers. Ecological problem happened when both rivers diverted from sea to irrigation. In five decades sea became Aralkum Desert.

Soviet Union government has crazy plan to torn low fertile ground into best place to grow crops. In short term it succeeded but in long term it resulted in biggest environmental disaster of 20th century. Right before 1991 (year when Soviet Union broke up) Uzbekistan became world’s biggest cotton producer. Irrigation canals poorly built which resulted in water evaporating and wall leaking.

Cotton crops require huge amount of pesticides which accumulated in the Aral sea. In thoughtful agriculture sector crop rotation have to be used to ensure soil fertility. In independent Uzbekistan (got independence in 1991) crop rotation strategy was not used which resulted in increased quantities of pesticides and fertilizers. As sea became Aralkum desert winds pull up poison sand and spread in over large territory (even near Arctic circle). The blowing dust from dry lakebed (full of pesticides, fertilizers, etc) resulted in local population health disaster. Contaminated soil and water destroyed local agriculture sector.

Cotton plantations require workforce. As a workforce school kids and university students was used for a few months per year (zero salary, free workers).

Google map in 2019 show next picture of Aral Sea:

As we can see on last Google map picture only Kazakhstan part of Aral Sea now available. In order to increase level of water Kazakhstan build Kokaral dam, project funded by The World Bank and gave impressive results.

Kokaral dam sharply increased water level in Kazakhstan side but totally prevented water flow into Uzbekistan southern part. Current Uzbekistan government unsuccessfully pitched problem in every ecological meeting. Which solution Uzbekistan government provided? Plant trees on exposed lakebed. Also there rumors that oil and gas found under lakebed and it’s easier (cheaper) to produce it on dry land than on sea.

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