Staunton, September 27 – The Kazakhstan section of the Aral Sea is experiencing what some in the region are calling “the rebirth” of that body of water, but in fact, what is happening is something else: the creation of “the first man-made sea” in the world: the Little Aral in the north thanks to the redirection of flows from the Syrdarya river.
As a result of the increased flow from that river, local observers say, the sea has “risen” sufficiently that Aral’sk, a port city 50 years ago, is now only 17 kilometers from the shore, not the 150 kilometers it was only a few years ago, allowing the restoration of the fishing industry (matritca.kz/topnews/25839-v-aral-vernulas-voda-rasstoyanie-ot-aralska-do-berega-sokratilos-s-150-km-do-17-km.html).
On the one hand, this is an impressive achievement especially if the authorities fulfill their promises to restore “the northern part of the Little Aral sea over the next three years. And perhaps most important, it will limit the negative health and economic consequences the drying up of the Aral has had on the Karakalpak region of Uzbekistan.
But on the other hand and despite the hype, the new rise in the sea level in the northern segment of what was a much larger sea does not mean that the Aral as a whole is on its way to recovery. Unless there are changes in Uzbekistan’s water use policies or those of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan where rivers that feed the sea rise, the death of Aral will remain irreversible.