The story of the Aral Sea’s disappearance

It once was the world’s fourth-largest lake, but it disappeared before our eyes. This is the tragic story of the Aral Sea.

Only recently, this desert was home to the world's fourth largest lake. Situated between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, it was over 26,000 square miles, more than twice the size of Belgium. But in just 50 years, this inland sea has nearly vanished. The Aral Desert has taken the place of the Aral Sea. That was one of the most interesting ecosystems of the world, Alice Aureli before the 60s. The area, is now a desert area, where, of course, biodiversity doesn't exist anymore, and most of the species have disappeared. Behind this tragic story lies an agribusiness race for profit, set against the backdrop of the Cold War. In the 1960s, the Soviet government that controlled several countries in Central Asia, decided to transform the region's vast desert steppe into intensive cotton and wheat plantations. Massive were launched. construction projects The water from the two rivers was taken by engineering work, building dykes, building channels, that of course also changed the morphology of the area. The arid steppe was replaced with agricultural lands. In the late '80s, Uzbekistan was cotton exporter in the world. But while harvesters ran full speed ahead, the Aral Sea, deprived of its main sources, expanded between its northern and southern halves, splitti it in 2. As, tch of land When you have a sort of pumping that is so extreme, the level of the lake decreased by 17 meters. This decrease sent the lake's salt levels soaring, and large amounts of pesticides and fertilizer runoff spewed into the lake. This deadly combination wiped out the lake's fis including 20 endemic species forever gone from the Earth. Also birds and many other species of animals, due to the hyper-salinization of the lake, but not only. The increase of the desert created the sandstorms. These of course create climate and a situation that doesn't allow the species living in the area to continue to survive. Around the lake, a large part of the local population fled. Before drying out, the Aral Sea was the livelihood of 40,000 fishermen. the Aral Seawas There was an increase in poverty, due to the lack of water access and water security. It was an economic disaster. the Aral Sea lost 90% of its volume. In 50 years, Today, rusting ships of the desert in the middle of the place's past life. are the finalestiges Saturated with salt, the soil has become barren, and winds whip up created by decades of industrial exploitation. The inhabitants who stayed behind suffer from abnormally high rates of cancers, respiratory diseases, and anemia. The infant mortality rate is also among the highest We know that pesticides and fertilizers infiltrate in the subsoil and then reach the aquifers, the groundwater And, of course, drinking water is mainly driven by wells that are pumping in these aquifers. In the face of this crisis, independent since Soviet Union in 1991, the collapse of the has decided to act. With the help of the World Bank, it unveiled the Kokaral Dam in 2005. This project, such as the reintroduction of 15 or so species of fish, has brought life back to the northern part In Kazakhstan, the level of the lake has increased, and some of the species are back. But at the same time, this dam doesn't allow the flow of the water to reach the southern part of the Aral Sea. As well as thisam, which deprives of water, the southern part As well as this dam, the area has suffered the consequences of Uzbekistan's agricultural policy. As the world's sixth largest cotton producer, the country still draws on water resources to irrigate its crops. But it isn't the only country responsible for the problem.. The two rivers, the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya rivers, that take their source from the Hindu Kush in the Pamir, before, to reach Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, they go through Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The problem is much more than only Uzbekistan's and Kazakhstan's management of the water. It's really a regional coordination and cooperation for the management of transboundary waters of the region. Without a real sustainable management and governance of water resources, and, in particular, the protections of the glaciers, looking at the impact that climate change definitely there will be not much future for the Aral Sea in the next 100 years. .nature Journalist Florian Thomas | Video Editor Nina de Sandrans Google Play