The Aral Sea Comes Back…

by Laurence on 5/29/2006 · 4 comments

Believe it or not, The Independent’s Geoffrey Lean reports that the Aral Sea is coming back–filling up after completion of a new dam:

Fresh fish are on sale cheaply again in markets near the world’s most desiccated sea. Cold green water is creeping back towards dozens of long-abandoned harbours, and for the first time in a generation, fishermen are launching their boats where recently there were only waves of sand.Life is returning astonishingly quickly to the North Aral Sea in Central Asia, partially reversing one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters. Just months after the completion of a dam to conserve its waters, the sea has largely recovered – confounding experts who said it was beyond rescue. Since April the level of the sea has risen by more than 3m, flooding over 800 sq km of dried-out seabed, and bringing hope to a part of the world bereft of it since Soviet engineers stole the waters in the 1960s.

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Ben May 30, 2006 at 4:47 am

That’s certainly great news. However, one has to bear in mind that only the northern Aral Sea is coming back, whereas the largest part of it, the southern part cannot be saved according to quite a few experts…

Brejen May 30, 2006 at 5:22 pm

oh my god, i hope it’s true! the sea will revive the depressed economy of Karakalpakstan. inshallah

Jonathan P May 30, 2006 at 6:48 pm

Unfortunately, the North Aral Sea is nowhere near Karakalpakstan. This change will only directly benefit the city of Aralsk and a few other citizens of Kazakhstan.

Nyura May 30, 2006 at 8:41 pm

It seems that politics more than science will be the final doom for the southern Aral. Too much fighting over water among the ‘stans, and too much money riding on the crops that have sucked the Aral dry. The New York Times/Washington Post articles in March stated that the irrigation canals along the Syr Darya in Kazakhstan were so poorly constructed and wasteful, that improving them increased the overall water flow to the North Aral much more than expected, one of the reasons the North sea has filled up more quickly than anticipated.

Another article I read (I wish I could find the references) claimed that a year’s subsidies to cotton farmers in Uzbekistan to close & repair that canals on the Amu Darya (and let all the water flow into the South Aral) would make a huge difference, and not cost all that much, in relative World Bank loan terms. But would the subsidies make it all the way to the farmers giving up a year of crop income?

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