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Earth Science

Once Written Off for Dead, the Aral Sea Is Now Full of Life (nationalgeographic.com) 50

Years ago, the Aral Sea was the world's fourth-largest freshwater lake with an area of some 26,000 square miles. But in the 1950s, it became the victim of the Soviet Union's agricultural policies. Water from its two river sources -- the Amu Darya and Syr Darya -- was intentionally diverted for cotton cultivation. The Aral Sea began to disappear and nearly completely vanished. But things have changed for good. From a report: This rapid collapse over less than three decades -- which environmental scientists say is one of the planet's worst ecological disasters -- is marked today by the sea's reduced size. Its total area of water, straddling Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, is now a tenth of its original size. What's left has broken into two distinct bodies: the North and South Aral Seas. In Uzbekistan, the entire eastern basin of the South Aral Sea is completely desiccated, leaving merely a single strip of water in the west.

But Kazakhstan's North Aral Sea has seen a happier outcome, thanks to a nearly $86 million project financed in large part by the World Bank. Along with repairs to existing dikes around the basin to prevent spillage, an eight-mile dam was constructed just south of the Syr Darya River. Completed in the summer of 2005, this dam, named Kokaral, surpassed all expectations. It led to an 11-foot increase in water levels after just seven months -- a goal that scientists initially expected would take three years. This turnaround in the North Aral Sea's fate has meant that the fish stocks have returned to its waters, injecting new life into the local communities. Just as government policies had doomed the Aral Sea, careful planning and research helped revive at least part of it.

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Once Written Off for Dead, the Aral Sea Is Now Full of Life

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  • ...sometimes.

  • by Troed ( 102527 ) on Sunday March 18, 2018 @06:46PM (#56281283) Homepage Journal

    “It is helping to save the Small Aral sea,” says FitzGerald. “But it was also a death warrant to the Big Aral, on the Uzbek side. People on the Uzbek side are very angry about it. The dam shut the only source of water that was entering their sea.”

    http://www.bbc.com/news/resour... [bbc.com]

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Sunday March 18, 2018 @08:07PM (#56281519)

      âoeIt is helping to save the Small Aral sea,â says FitzGerald. âoeBut it was also a death warrant to the Big Aral, on the Uzbek side. People on the Uzbek side are very angry about it. The dam shut the only source of water that was entering their sea."

      So, similar to the Uzbeks, you simply chose to ignore the next paragraph, which inconveniently notes that:

      "That ignores, however, the fact that the Amu Darya - known to Central Asian schoolchildren as the Amazon of the region - was diverted into myriad irrigation channels supplying Uzbekistanâ(TM)s own cotton and rice fields."

      It's was the only remaining source of water because the Uzbeks completely diverted their own source of water. But that paints a far less sympathetic picture.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      To which the response is Kazakhstan is a lot bigger and has lots of uranium (both the US and Russia want to be friends with them), what can you say, sucks to be Uzbek. It is not a very big dam and well below original water levels, so maybe it will eventually overflow, better some hope than none.

  • by Mister Liberty ( 769145 ) on Sunday March 18, 2018 @07:12PM (#56281343)
    Also save Owens Lake in California! (see http://mentalfloss.com/article... [mentalfloss.com])
  • "careful planning and research"
    This SHOULD be a lesson to everyone insisting that the government "do something". Reactionary legislation is usually bad legislation that takes years to undo. The other lesson people should learn is that those who insist that the government "do something right away" are lying their ass off.

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