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The Aral Sea

Where is the Aral Sea? The Aral Sea is located in Central Asia, between the Southern part of Kazakhstan and the Northern part of Uzbekistan. It was once the world’s fourth largest saltwater lake.

What is happening?

To put it simply, the Aral Sea is shrinking. When did it start? Well, the last time the water level of the sea was stable was 1960. The primary cause behind the shrinking of the Aral Sea is the diversion of the main sources of the water for the purpose of irrigation. Officials in the Soviet Union decided to divert river flows feeding the Aral Sea to the deserts of Central Asia, so that the water irrigated farms, supplying a growing cotton industry, in 1959. As the cotton grew, the lake’s level dropped and shrinked. And thus today, only slivers remain.

Efforts to prevent it from worsening

Seeing how horrible the situation is, there is no doubt that efforts should be made and actions need to be taken.

Here are a few facts and efforts that has been made throughout the years:-

  • The five states sharing the Aral Sea Basin (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) joined together to develop a strategy. The World Bank and agencies of the United Nations (UN) have developed an Aral Sea Program. The first stage was funded by the five countries and external donors.

  • In the early 1990s, a 10-mile dike was built between the northern and southern seas in order to block a channel that carried water from the northern sea to the southern sea.

  • The cost of returning the Aral Sea to something of its former size has been estimated at around $280 billion. There has been some discussion of building a canal between the Aral Sea and Caspian Sea, which is rising. The first time these plans were mentioned by Soviet plans the goal was not to save the Aral Sea but rather to bring in more irrigation water. Another proposal is to divert water from other rivers to feed the lake.

  • Reduction in water usage and irrigation is one of the actions that could be taken. However, Uzbekistan desperately needs the money it brings and it is unwilling to make reductions in water usage. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan also are reluctant to make reductions as agriculture helps employ lots of people. If they decide to cut off the irrigation water, their government is worried about unemployment, debts and social problems.

  • The World Bank and the Kazakhstan government launched an $86 million Kok-Aral Dam project to revive the Aral Sea that involved building a proper 13-kilometre-long earthen dike to channel water from the Syr Darya River to the northern section of the Aral Sea in July 2003. The dam-dike was built at the foot of the northern Aral. To increase the flow from the Syr Darya, existing levees were strengthened, banks were straightened and old Soviet bottlenecks were removed.

Issues such as the Aral Sea are happening and climate change is not helping it at all. Everyone living on Earth has the responsibility to maintain and protect the environment. For all we have is given by nature. The evolution of humans started with nature, we were nurtured by nature. Yet, how could we stay here and do nothing when we see nature getting destroyed and demolished? Nature isn’t just something that we take for granted, we need to appreciate nature and maintain it.

The Aral Sea throughout the years

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