The Sputtering Aral Sea

by Joshua Foust on 4/10/2007 · 2 comments

Aral Sea Over Time

Bonnie Boyd, over at the Central Asia blog, is running a series on the Aral Sea (part 1 and part 2 are up, with a third on its way). I suppose we don’t need to rehash it yet again, but the situation there is so enormous—vast swaths of the land are scorched dry and filled with poison—it’s sometimes difficult to think about what could be done.

In Kazakhstan, however, there are a few sputtering signs of life from the North Aral fragment. Its shrinkage has been arrested and even reversed a bit, and many engineers and ecologists are optimistic it might one day expand in size all way to the harbor of Aralsk.

Now, the Aral Sea isn’t the only water-based disaster facing Kazakhstan: Lake Balkhash, remember, faces a similar dilemma from reckless irrigation in China. But it is nevertheless encouraging to see concrete steps being taken to save at least some of Central Asia’s horrible shrinking sea.


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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 2 comments }

Al April 10, 2007 at 8:38 pm

And it’s not encouraging at all to see that only one country is taking efforts on the Aral problem; while the most exposed to the problem is Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan is trying to take measures unilaterally. It’s shameful for Uzbekistan not to take the same initiative. This just shows that we’re incapable of acquiring trust of western financial institutions anymore.

Brian April 11, 2007 at 11:18 am

A rather misleading article about the Aral Sea came out today in RFERL saying that the ‘Aral Sea Shows Signs of Recovery’:
http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2007/04/F74093B1-7878-4659-8210-69BD1A2688F9.html

The thing about this is the only evidence of recovery they talk about are the dams built in Kazakhstan. So it’s not like the Aral Sea itself is recovering, rather the former fishing towns near the sea are recovering. As far as I know they’re not saving or obtaining any more water, they’re just pushing it into more convenient places. Overall, the sea is still dying.

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