The Aral Sea between 1960 and 2012 lost 85 % of its area and 92 % of its
volume, while separating into four residual lakes. The Large Aral on the south
endured a level drop of 25 m and rise of salinity from 10 g/l to well over 100 g/l.
Over this period, the sea suffered immense ecological and economic damage
including the destruction of its valuable ?shery and degradation of the deltas of
its two in?uent rivers. Nevertheless, despite of this calamity, and contrary to reports
that the sea is a lost cause (popular reports that the sea will “disappear” are simply
false), hope has remained that the sea and its deltas could be partially rehabilitated.
Various restoration scenarios are discussed. Full revitalization of the sea in the
foreseeable future is extremely improbable, but cannot be ruled out for distant
times. The project implemented in the ?rst decade of the present century to partially
restore the Small (northern) Aral Sea so far has been eminently successful. Partial
restoration of the Large (southern) Aral is more problematic as it would be more
costly and complicated than the north Aral project. Nevertheless, it is certainly
worthy of further investigation. Projects to improve the deltas of the Amu Darya
and Syr Darya are also underway.
Water resource management is the activity of planning, developing, distributing and managing the optimum use of water resources. It is a sub-set of water cycle management. Water Management is important since it helps determine future Irrigation expectations. Water management is the management of water resources under set policies and regulations. Water, once an abundant natural resource, is becoming a more valuable commodity due to droughts and overuse.
The Aral Sea is situated in Central Asia, (the most important water body located) between the southern part of Kazakhstan and Northern Uzbekistan. Up until the third quarter of the 20th century it was the world’s fourth largest saline lake and contained 10 grams of salt per liter. The two rivers that feed it are the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, respectively reaching the Sea through the South and the North. But since the 1960 the sea has lost 90% of its volume.
Soviet canals; In the 1920s, the Soviet Union turned lands of the Uzbek SSR into cotton plantations and ordered the construction of irrigation canals to provide water to the crops in the middle of the plateau of the region. These hand-dug, irrigation canals moved water from the Anu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, which were the rivers that fed the freshwater Aral Sea.
Until the 1960s, the system of canals, rivers, and the Aral Sea was fairly stable. However, in the 1960s, the Soviet Union decided to expand the canal system and drain more water from the rivers that fed the Aral Sea.
The Destruction of the Aral Sea; thus, in the 1960s, the Aral Sea began shrinking quite rapidly. By 1987, the single sea dried up enough to create a northern lake and a southern lake. In 2002, the southern lake shrunk and dried up to become an eastern lake and a western lake. In 2014, the eastern lake completely evaporated and disappeared. The Soviet Union regarded the cotton crops as far more valuable than the Aral Sea fishing economy, which had once been the backbone of the regional economy.
Prior to the evaporation of the lake, the Aral Sea produced about 20,000 to 40,000 tons of fish a year. This was reduced to a low of 1,000 tons of fish a year at the height of the crisis. Today, what was once the fourth largest lake on the planet in now just a dustbowl.
The destruction of the Aral Sea caused great environmental and health impacts on the region. The primary effect of the Aral Sea has been the significant loss of water in the sea. The water level has dropped approximately 23 meters since the onset of its primary sources of water being diverted. Also, the river inflow has been rapidly decreasing since 1960. Net evaporation has also decreased, but at a slower rate while the groundwater inflow has remained approximately the same. As a result, there was a net deficit of water to the sea.
The Aral Sea region experienced significant desertification and a sharp increase in the salinity of sea water. The region also has to deal with increased number of dust and salt storms and fluctuating climate change.
The longer-term impact of exposure to environmental pollutants on public health is beginning to be recognized. The population around the Aral Sea suffer from generally poor health, partly due to a breakdown of the health care infrastructure since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and partly due to socioeconomic and ecological factors. The deteriorating health situation is in parallel to the worsening ecological situation and the resulting worsening economic condition of the region. Diseases seem to increase, particularly rates of anemia, tuberculosis, kidney and liver diseases, respiratory infections, allergies and cancer, which far exceed the rest of the former USSR and present-day Russia.
Average life expectancy in the Kzyl-Orda region of Kazakhstan has declined from 64 to 51 years. Women and children are the most vulnerable. Maternal and infant morbidity and mortality are significantly higher in Karakalpakstan and Kzyl-Orda than in other parts of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. A high rate of anemia is found in almost all groups of women in Karakalpakstan.
High levels of reproductive pathologies (infertility, miscarriages, complications during pregnancy and in birth) have been observed in this region for more than 20 years. The rate of birth abnormalities, another serious consequence of pollution, is also increasing.
The negative environmental factors (pesticides, high mineralization of water, imbalance of elements such as iodine deficiency) could be one of the main factors in the formation of negative health consequences for women and children in the Aral Sea region and, in combination with medical and social factors, result in the high level of pathologies, including maternal and infant morbidity and mortality.
In less than a century, humanity destroyed the Aral Sea. It is one of the most emblematic environmental disasters. But now it seems the sea has collapsed at least twice before and recovered both times.
In 1961, the Aral Sea in central Asia was the world’s fourth largest lake. But massive irrigation programmes begun during the Soviet era diverted water from the rivers that feed it, reducing the lake’s volume to just 10 per cent of what it was and leaving large areas dry. The ecosystem has collapsed, the desiccated lake bed is laced with pesticides that are spread by dust storms, and drinking water is polluted.
Now geologists have discovered that the Aral Sea has previously recovered naturally from such severe declines. “The sea really has dried in the past and has come back,” says Philip Micklin of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, who was not involved in the new study.
The prevention of the destruction of the Aral Sea would have required any kind of local government that did not prioritize draining the waters of the Aral Sea’s tributaries, the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya, for agriculture to the exclusion of any other needs.