environment

He was stranded: in Central Asia trying to save the Aral sea

Rusty boats and ships of the Soviet era in the tens of kilometers from the nearest pond.

This is not an installation of contemporary artists, it is a reminder that once on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was the coastline of one of the largest lakes in the world — the Aral sea. Now here is a zone of constant ecological disaster. At the end of August, the presidents of the five republics gathered in Turkmenistan to solve the problem. The Aral sea disaster occurred in the second half of the previous century. Before that, the pond was considered the fourth largest lake in the world. Residents of the surrounding settlements longingly remember the past. "In 1964, the water reached the edge of our village. At that time we walked all over the pond. We reached the Amu Darya in Karakalpakstan, where we fished. They pulled the net, pulled out 10, 20, 30, sometimes 100 tons of fish. Carp, flounder, catfish... Catch directly into the sea handed over to reception and transport vessels. Home we didn't come for six months, the earth is not seen, sushi is not seen," Rybak said from the Kazakh village of Bogen Turarbek Iztleuov. He adds that the fishing stopped only in autumn, when the water surface was covered with ice. In winter, the fish went on a sleigh pulled by camels or horses. On the coast was a thriving port city of Aralsk and Muynak. They have streamlined the navigation. A purse-Seine vessels had a capacity of 20-40 people. The team consisted of fishermen, cooks, sailors and engineers. When the sea began to dry out, the boats could not return to the shallowed ports. At first they got stuck in the silt, which then turned into sand. So in the desert, there was the famous cemetery of ships. 

The sea began to dry up in the 1970s. "Our village water went away gradually. Reached the average level, then started to go down faster," explains Turarbek. With the retreat of the great water, the climate also changed. Earlier, in the vicinity of the Aral sea, the locals were engaged in gardening, agriculture — they grew melons, watermelons, barley, wheat. The Aral sea served as a stove in winter — it gave the accumulated heat, and in summer, on the contrary, cooled, working as a refrigerator. Without it, summer was dry and hot, winter — cold. About former way of life there were only memories. The Aral sea is in fact a drainless lake, but because of the salt water and the huge size of it, as well as the neighboring Caspian sea, it was called the sea. The total area of the reservoir was 68 thousand sq. km. Maximum length — 435 km, depth — 69 m. Drying began in the postwar years. Then in the Central Asian Soviet republics — Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan — actively developed agriculture, including cotton. For this purpose, the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers feeding the lake began to divert water through irrigation channels. By 1985, the water resources of the two rivers were fully used for the needs of the national economy. In winter, water accumulated in reservoirs, in summer it was used for irrigation.

The collapse of the USSR did not change the situation. By 2003, the volume of water in the Aral sea was only about 10%, and its surface area — about a quarter of the original. The coastline has receded by 100 km, the salinity of the water has increased by two and a half times. On the site of the pond was a sandy-saline desert Aral-Kum. On the former seabed there were deposits of salts and agricultural pesticides, pesticides, washed away once from the fields. Frequent dust storms, characteristic of the desert, raise all this in the air and spread to huge areas. According to the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, annually from the bottom rises to 80 million tons of poisonous salts. Air currents carry particles into the high layers of the atmosphere. Central Asian dust is found in a vast area from Eastern Europe to the Himalayas. Its inhalation leads to allergies and dangerous diseases. Doctors, in particular, indicate that respiratory diseases, digestive disorders, cancer of the esophagus and throat, anemia, kidney disease, liver and eye diseases are common in the Aral sea region.

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