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Aral Sea—What Was and What Is

      Since the very beginning of its existence, the human  being  has  been
developing.  It has never stopped, and  it  never  will.   During  the  last
couple of centuries it has been developing very  aggressively,  and  it  has
reached tremendous achievements in all fields.   Unfortunately  mankind  has
achieved tremendous success in polluting its  environment  also.   Nowadays,
nature is missing many of its inhabitants: – those who are  supposed  to  be
under the protection of humans as young brothers and sisters. Pollution  was
the reason for their extinction. Finally, the humanity started  paying  more
attention to what surrounds it.  It started thinking about the  future,  its
future generations, and the inheritance to these generations.   People  have
started asking themselves more often questions  like,  “What  will  we  have
left to other children after us?”  Currently, humanity has plenty of  global
environmental problems that it has to take care of now.   Tomorrow  will  be
too late.  Some of these global environmental problems are  global  warming,
deforestation, freshwater contamination, destruction of ozone layer  of  the
earth, pollution of space orbit of the earth by  parts  of  used  equipment.
Desiccation of the Aral Sea is one of the items on the list.
      The Aral Sea, which is also considered to be a lake or Inland  Sea  in
Central  Asia,  is  located  in  southwestern  Kazakstan  and   northwestern
Uzbekistan, near the Caspian Sea.  The Aral has no outlet.  The Aral Sea  is
still listed as the fourth largest lake in  the  world.   But  it  has  been
shrinking for decades, and the statistics might change.  In  time  the  Aral
Sea may not the fourth largest lake in the world anymore.
   Nowadays, two  major  problems  have  risen  before  the  governments  of
Uzbekistan and Kazakstan; the desiccation and as a result of this threat  of
the complete  disappearance  of  the  sea,  and  the  danger  of  the  broad
extension  of  anthrax  bacteria  that  was  stored  by  the   Soviet   Army
Vozrozdenia Island.
      In comparison with the size of the sea in  the  1960’s,  the  Sea  has
declined in size by seventy-six percent.  The initial reason for the  Aral’s
decline is the fact that Soviet planners diverted water from Aral’s two  big
feeding rivers  (Amu  Darya  and  Syr  Darya)  into  cotton  fields  in  the
territory of Uzbekistan. Because of this irrigation, the sea is now  seventy
miles away from its former bank (in some places even more).  Ninety  percent
of the Syr Daya’s water is diverted into canals  and  reservoirs.   Millions
of people in Central Asia rely on the rivers for a livelihood.   Uzbekistan,
for instance, generates twenty-eight  percent  of  its  hard  currency  from
cotton     irrigated     with     river     water     (The     Aral     Sea,
      Planning the irrigation system, the Soviet planners  were  only  after
high rates of cotton harvests.  Unwise use of water has led to  the  current
state of the Aral Sea.    The salt content of the Sea’s waters increased  by
about threefold, adversely affecting plant and animal life and  causing  the
fishing industry to decline.
      The disappearance of the sea as a part of the ecosystem  is  just  one
problem that is followed by hundreds of subsequent problems.   One  of  them
has already risen: The drying of the  sea  has  left  behind  three  million
hectares of desiccated seabed, covered  with  accumulated  salts  which  the
wind carries away and  deposits  over  thousands  of  square  kilometers  of
arable land turning the land into dead ones.  One can see white ridges  amid
the soil in the field.  Salty dust from the dried out land blows in  squalls
through the area, causing discomfort and respiratory problems.  Wind  brings
more than a hundred tons of salty dust per square mile on the  region  every
year.   As a result of this, trees do not bear fruit any more.
      The Aral Sea’s desiccation has an  influence  on  everything  that  is
around it.  The  climate  in  the  region  has  changed  significantly;  the
winters are even colder, summers are even hotter.
      The sea was not only the water supply for the population, but  it  was
the source of their income.    A large part of the population  was  involved
in fishing and resort industries.   Now, that the Sea  is  far  away,  these
businesses are no longer available, and that leads to deterioration  of  the
financial situation of the people in the area.
“In city of Muynak, the three hundred-vessel fleet once employed a  thousand
fishermen.  It is now a collection of rusting  hulls  half-buried  amid  the
dunes on the edge of town.  Yet the  sixty-year-old  canning  factory  still
clatters, all steam and stench, although its seven  hundred  workers  handle
fish brought by lorry from the lakes around  Tashkent,  one  thousand  miles
away” (Reeves, The Sea Sickness).
      The sea has turned from a rich fishing ground to a prairie  of  poison
dust.  Desiccation has  a  great  deal  of  influence  on  the  population’s
health; the change in  environment  has  significantly  increased  rates  of
birth  defects,  infant  mortality,   cancers,   malnutrition,   respiratory
diseases, and the anemia suffered by almost all women of child-bearing  age.
Malnutrition has risen sharply; fish is no longer a  part  of  the  people’s
daily  diet.   Another  side  effect  imposed  on  the   population   is   a
dramatically increased rate of tuberculosis in the area.
      One of the causes of health deterioration is that over  three  decades
the water could not or barely could make it to the  Aral  Sea.   The  Aral’s
water contains a lot of pesticides.  The pesticides sank to  the  bottom  of
the lake.  As the lake dried up, this layer of pesticide became  exposed  to
the wind, which blows it away on the other lands.
      The partial solution for the problem is to build a dam to  keep  water
from flowing  into  the  larger,  southern  portion.   Plans  call  for  the
structure’s base  to  be  150  yards  wide.   If  money  is  found  for  the
construction, the water level of the northern sea  will  rise  to  the  same
level it was in 1960’s.  As a result of the construction, salination of  the
sea will decrease.  This fact might contribute  to  restoration  of  fishing
and resort industries.
      For the population of this region, the dam is a rare ray of  hope.  If
the dam holds on the small sea, a microclimate will be restored there.   The
health of people will improve and it will be good for the economy.
      Calculations by the Kazak Academy of Science in Almaty, the  country’s
main commercial city,  suggest  the  entire  sea  might  disappear  by  2010
without the dam.  Currently the northern Sea is one-sixth as  large  as  the
southern  portion.   If  the  surface  area  is  reduced,  less  water  will
evaporate. The full damage caused cannot be repaired, but it can be  stopped
from going any further.
      The second threat to the Aral  Sea  and  its  inhabitants  is  anthrax
bacteria stored 1988 by the Soviet Army.  The Army was trying to get rid  of
its germ weapons and stored the bacteria  on  one  of  the  Aral’s  islands.
Soldiers dug large pits  and  poured  a  mixture  of  anthrax  bacteria  and
bleach.  The bleach was supposed to kill  the  bacteria,  but  it  did  not.
Even with the passage of time, the bacteria stay alive.
      Now, the Sea is drying out and this island can become a part of  land.
This fact carries the  threat  that  anthrax  bacteria  can  be  exposed  to
atmosphere one day, and it  will  become  a  very  serious  danger  to  both
      At this time, both governments in cooperation with the  United  States
are undertaking actions in order to prevent the extension of  the  bacteria.

      Over the two last centuries many of Earth’s inhabitants became extinct
as a result of environmental pollution.  It is time to  stop  it;  otherwise
the next extinct inhabitant might turn out to be humanity itself.

                                 Works cited

R.J.  Bennet  and   R.J.Chorley.    “Environmental   Systems.”    Princeton:
      Princeton University Press, 1978
Sulvan J.Kaplan, Ph.D. Evelyn Kivy –  Rosenberg,  Ph.D.   “Ecology  and  The
      Quality of Life.”  Illinois:  Publisher spring field, 1973
Andrew, Goudie. “The  Human  Impact.”   Cambridge,  Massachusetts:  The  MIT
      Press, 1981
John, Passmore.  “Man’s  Responsobility  for  Nature.”   New  York:  Charles
      Scribner’s Sons, 1974
Robin, Butlim A, and Neil  Roberts.   “Ecological  Relations  in  Historical
      Times.” London:  The Institute of British Geographers, 1985.
Sue Loyd-Robers.  “Kazakhs Struggle to Refill their Lost Sea;  Draining  the
      Aral Destroyed a Way of Life.”  Newspaper Publishing PLC, London:  The
Phill, Reeves “The Sea Sickness.”  Newspaper  Publishing  PLC,  London:  The
      Independent, March 6, 1999.
Graham, Hugles. “Scientists Fight to Save the Aral  Sea:  Desappearing  Lake
      Waters Leave Disease, Poverty in  Wake.”   Southan  Inc.   The  Ottawa
      Citizen,  January 30, 1999.
Ganiel, Williams.  “The Sinking Sea; Dike Splitting Kazakhstan’s  Aral  Dims
      Hopes for Its Salvation.”  The Washington Post, November 1, 1998.
The Aral Sea.  www.southampton.ac.uk/%7Eengenvir/water/aral.sea.html
The Aral Sea.  http://visearth.ucsd.edu/VisE_Int/aralsea
Water      Features      and       Water       Issues:       Aral       Sea.
Children’s      Response      to      the       Aral       Sea       Problem


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