The Aral Sea

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Aral Sea. The story of one accident.

Aral sea

It would seem that until a recent time the Aral Sea - Lake was considered to be the fourth largest in the whole world. Its area was 68 thousand square kilometers and the depth was of 10-17 meters, the deepest place used to be 54.5 meters. In its waters could be found about 300 islands, the largest of which were Barsakelmes and the Renaissance. The sea itself and the Aral Sea region were regarded prosperous containing rich natural biological environment. Aral functioned as a giant vaporizer. More than 60 cubic km of water evaporated and entered the atmosphere every year, making the coastal climate pretty mild, despite the proximity of the desert. However, today the fate of the Aral Sea may serve as an excellent illustration of human foolishness and ignorance.

Aral sea

The Aral Sea is an inland salty pond without water flow, it is fed (or rather, was fed) with the waters of two rivers, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya. The fresh waters of these two giant arteries maintained the level of water and the salt balance in the sea-lake.
In the early 60's of the last century, the Soviet government guided by the idea of maintaining the image of the "superpower", decided to increase significantly the crops of cotton and rice and the experimental area became the Aral Sea. A dry climate of deserts and semi-deserts didn’t chill hot heads of party bosses, therefore, it was decided to take the water for irrigation from the two rivers, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya.
Dam systems with a system of drainage canals, which stretch for thousands of kilometers, were constructed on the both waterways. It would seem that everything was perfect, but the euphoria did not last long. Due to improper and uneconomical water distribution, the swamping of irrigated land occurred in some areas, that made them unsuitable for farming, but somewhere an acute shortage of water and salt marshes revealed. Only 60% of the selected water for irrigation comes to fields, because nobody intended to concrete the bottom of the channels, therefore, 40% of the water simply got lost in the sands. From the 60 million hectares of land picked for agriculture, only 10 million hectares were irrigated.

Aral sea

It was namely at this time, when the local inhabitants and then the scientists noticed that the Aral Sea started rapidly becoming shallow. In 1990 year, the sea split into two segments: small and large Aral. By 1995 year the sea has lost three-quarters of the water volume that led to a loss of nearly half of the area of the mirror. The coastline was retreating, exposing tens of thousands kilometers of seabed. The level of salinity of water increases by 2,5 times.

But the trouble did not come alone. It was appeared the fact that, along with wastewater discharges, a huge amount of pesticides, indispensable attributes of cotton, was placed to the Aral Sea. Pesticides and an extremely high level of water salinity ruined everything.

Aral sea

At first, fish became unfit for eating, and then completely died out. Before this tragedy happened, biologists numbered 34 types of fish in the Aral Sea basin, 20 of which were considered to be trade. In successful years the catch was more than 40 thousand tons. Nowadays, none of fish type survived, and only the crustacean called Artemia salina, with the length of 13 mm firmly doesn’t wish to leave the pond, which became dry.

The Aral Sea lays on the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan states. During the heyday of the Aral Sea, a fishing industry prospered in this region. On the territory of the former Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic five fishery factories together with a dozen of piscatory cooperatives were built around the lake.
Today the dying Aral was inherited by the Republic of Karakalpakstan, which is the part of Uzbekistan. City of Muynak, formerly located in immediate proximity to the shoreline, now harvest the results of human activities. The current location of the city is a desert and only the skeletons of boats, yachts and ships - the dead giants semiclosed by the sand, remind about a former fishing activities. Water left over a distance of 200 km from the village and the climate which was used to be softened by the sea proximity, gradually became sharply continental. Winter now is colder and longer, and summer is very hot (an average July temperature is +39 C degree).