The Aral Sea, The Shadow of What It Was!

One of the worst ecological human disasters happened in the Aral Sea (Sea of Islands) located in the far western Asia, in the east of the Caspian Sea located in the countries of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It once had 68,000 square km. Today the sea is almost completely gone it is evaporating day by day, contaminated by fertilizer residues, biological weapons tested by the Soviet Union for the Cold War.  Source: This magnificent sea was the 4th largest in 1960 until the high demand of cotton killed it. The Sea paid with its life for the production of entire fields of cotton, (white gold) at the very high price.


Location of The Aral Sea

“There is not enough cotton”- that is what the authorities said. Cotton needed to be planted everywhere to provide all Russia even though the Aral had to die in the process and so it was made. Over 40 years ago two rivers that ran into the Aral, were deviated those were the Amu Daria and Sir Daria in order to irrigate field full of cotton. The tubes and material used to take this waters were not good quality and most of the flow was lost in its way. During years and years, the Sea received no water from its tributaries, the consequence was it began to dry day by day. Today it is only 75% of what it was in its good times. It was not only it was drying up but its waters were polluted with all the fertilizers used for cotton plantations. Its waters started affecting people around cases as malformations, high infant mortality, and linfatic cancer appeared.

The Aral Sea in 1989 (left) and 2014 (right).

Symposiums are held in order to generate ideas to bring the Aral back. Salinity is so high flora and fauna die, pesticides in the sand left are being carried to the population in forms of dust storms. The Soviet Union had secret laboratories installed in the Aral, they were abandoned as the sea dried out with no care of biosecurity rules. The multiple virus present in them were free into the environment.  The Aral´s sand contains boats all around its body, the ones that make the settlers feel nostalgic of this immense and beautiful sea in its good times. Temperatures have turned extreme in the place and authorities say it is because of climate change.

Settlers say there is an old legend that tells that The Aral has gone three times and three times it has come back. They hoped some time it will come back. Fisherman remembers the good and tasty fish they used to capture in the Sea. Thet said those fish ate Seagrass that made them tastier. Their diet was based on fish, every meal they had food prepared with fish. The great factory of fish established on the place processed thousands of tons of fish and approximately 600 men worked in here they sent their products mostly to the Soviet Union. The factory had to close when the water level went down and the fish could no longer live in its waters.Source: Documentary by We are Water Foundation (Isabel Coixet) “Aral the Lost Sea”.

The Aral is all over, no more fish no more water to sail on………