Thursday, May 20, 2021

Aral Sea’s Demise having Negative Impact on Population of an Ever-Larger Region, Kryazheva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 17 – The drying up of the Aral Sea is having a negative impact on ever more people and the economy in an ever-larger region as dangerous minerals from the former seabed are spread by the winds, Anna Kryasheva says; and Kazakhstan’s efforts to save a small part of the sea with a World Bank-funded dam are doing little to limit this problem.

            The Rhythm of Eurasia analyst says that while the problems are increasing the number of calls to reverse the demise of the Aral Sea, they have not led to actions that have significantly limited the difficulties around its former borders (

            Some outside observers have been encouraged by Kazakhstan’s effort to save the Northern or Small Aral with a dam that prevents the flow of water from that area to the larger sea. But the Small Aral covers less than five percent of the 68,000 square kilometers the entire sea covered in 1960.

            Moreover and more seriously, by preventing water from flowing from it into the larger sea, this World Bank-funded project is in fact accelerating the demise of the Aral and harming far more people in the other countries of Central Asia than it is helping in Kazakhstan, thus exacerbating tensions among them.

            And now there are signs that the Kazakhstan project is about to fail as well. Rising water levels are approaching the top of the dam and so that country’s hopes for the recovery of the Small Aral may be in jeopardy unless a second and third tranche of funds becomes available, something not currently likely, Kryasheva says.

            According to her, the only real growth industry around the Aral are popular songs and new films. These attract attention to what she calls “the largest environmental disaster in the contemporary world.” But they do little to solve it. That would require both money and international agreements, both of which are in short supply.

            As a result, those living around where the Aral once was are likely going to suffer even more in the future than they have up to now.

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