Aral Sea which translates to “Sea of Islands” was one of the four largest lakes in the world which covered an area of 68,000 sq km. It is an endorheic lake lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan which supported many fishing industries along its shoreline. But now none of the above fairytale-esque statements hold true as the lake is now reduced to 10% of its original size and is in course of completely drying up if appropriate measures are not taken.
The region surrounding the Aral Sea was once the habitat of diverse flora and fauna. The lake was fed by two major rivers, namely Syr Darya and Aral Darya. It long served as the natural regulator of climate and rainfall in irrigation land located in proximity of the lake. Inhabited by early desert nomads, it provided an excellent settlement option with farming lands and rich vegetation. It was once also the westernmost border of Tang dynasty of China.
This is an example of one of the most convincing cases of unbalanced activities undertaken by the “powerful’ of the society neglecting the sustainable development side of things. The Aral Sea tragedy began when the Russian government started diverting the route of two of the rivers that fed Aral Sea, Amu Darya and Syr Darya, through the irrigation canals for cotton farming purposes which was considered white gold back then. The construction of these canals accelerated during the 1940s, but was rather poorly built which allowed the water to either leak of evaporates. Itwas reported that almost 75% of the water went wasted. Consequently, the sea’s surface area was reduced to almost 60% and water volume by 80% of its previous size by 1998. What was once a prospering ground for fish with 34 distinct varieties of species over time became unsuitable for aquaculture as the salinity of water increased beyond safe levels. The growing desertification of areas is another big concern among the states which directly or indirectly influences global warming.
Lately in the wake-up call, five states that located at the mouth of Aral Sea basin, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, have came up with individual and collaborative efforts to bring back the glory of Aral Sea. Proposal of a new anthropogenic-natural complex in the South Prearalie was put forward and is being considered thoroughly which will revitalize the productivity of this territory. The restoration projects have also got the attention of the likes of UNESCO and World Bank who are also making their own contributions abiding by a pessimistic vision.
A trip to Aral Sea will not be anything like what you expect a sea (or lake) tour to be like. Instead of green pasture land with shorelines, you’ll be greeted with graveyard of rusting fishing boats and the remains of the fish factories that were once employed in this area, but have no use in this day and age. In fact that’s what attracting people to this place which they’ll probably never get to see anywhere in the world. An off road excursion trip through the desert in either camel or 4X4 vehicle is also something that tourists are responding positively to.