Life returns to the Aral Sea
The drying off the Aral Sea, once the worlds fourth largest freshwater lake, is one of the biggest man made ecological disasters in history.
During the last 35 years, from 1960 to 1995, the Aral Sea in Centralasia has been shrinking in area, since the rivers that feed it were diverted by the Soviet Union for irrigation, mainly for cotton. This led to the lowering of the sea level by 17 m, accompanied by a reduction of the volume of the water area by 75%.
The sea received less than 10 procent of the water needed for maintaining the ecological balance and in mid 70ties the lake turned from fresh water to salt water lake. This rapidly growing procentage of salt has killed the variety of fish, causing that fishery, which was the main income for around 100.000 people around the lake, almost disappeared. Following by the reduced signifiance of the lake the climate has become rougher, and desert is accelerating. Harbours is dryed off - and traffic by ship and ferry has disappeared.
In 2002 Kazakhstan and the World Bank made an agreement conserning the rebuilding of the northern part of the Aral Sea, the small Aral Sea, the part that is in Kazakhstan.
Opposite to the southern neighbour Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan has lots of oil, and therefore the financial possibilities to raise a part of the money – and this makes the whole difference in the development.
Today a dam is separating the northern and the southern part of the lake. The water level in small Aral Sea is raising, and the lake is slowly turning into a fresh water lake with returning animal life and growing in fishery, while part of the desert is again being covered by water.
The biggest and most southern part of the Aral Sea is on the other hand lost.