Aral Sea which straddles between the country of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Formerly with an area covering a massive 68,000 square kilometers, it was one of the largest lakes in the world. In the Uzbekistan part, it lies in the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan. Aral Sea translates to “Sea of Islands” in English which refer to thousands of small islands which bespeckled the waters of Aral Sea when it was at its peak.The primary inflows to this lake were Amu Darya and Syr Darya River, the former of which is theorized to have been flowing to this only after Holocene. This lake was the main source of water for desert nomads that inhabited the vicinity of this lake. It also supported thriving fishing towns that exported fish products to lands as far as Russia. But much of that faded into past after Soviet Union diverted its path for facilitating the irrigation of cotton plantations.
Drying Up Of Aral Sea
After the Soviet Union commenced the diversion of Amu Darya and Syr Darya as part of its plan for cotton or white gold production, it was apparent to them that drying up of Aral Sea was inevitable. The construction of canals began in 1940s, but much of that was ill-planned and even more ill-executed. The poorly built canals leaked water, the remaining part of which partially got evaporated, with just quarter of it reaching the irrigation fields. It is estimated that around 30 to 75% of water got wasted. By 1960, somewhere between 20 to 60km3 of water ended up in cultivation lands instead of Aral Sea, and since then it began to shrink considerably. From 1960 up until 2000, the volume of water drawn from Aral Sea sources doubled, and the cotton production doubled proportionally too. As an upshot, during that same period of time, Aral Sea shrank up to 60% of its former size and 80% of its former volume. Even though the objectives of making the Uzbekistan region one of the leading producers of cotton succeeded, it came at the price of virtually killing off one of the largest lakes in the world. Currently the situation of Aral Sea is next to miserable. The surface area of it is now reduced down to 25% of its former size and the water has turned too salty to support any form of life.
Revival of Aral Sea
Over the years, many plans, theories, and suggestions came forward to restore or at least improve the situation of Aral Sea even from the likes of World Bank and UNESCO. Five countries, namely, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan, joined hands and adopted the Aral Sea Basin Program which is centered on stabilizing the Aral Sea Basin environment and rehabilitating the area around the sea.
Things To Do In Aral Sea Region
While you’re in Aral Sea, do get to visit the following places:
- Ships Cemetery
- The Regional History and Aral Sea Museum