Saturday, April 27, 2024

The Caspian Sea on Its Way to Becoming a Desert, Kazakh Political Scientist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 22 – The Caspian Sea is “shrinking dramatically,” Aida Amangeldina says, a development that puts it at risk of desertification, a development that threatens not only the flora and fauna of the sea itself but also and potentially far more seriously “the socio-economic situation” of the five littoral states.

            Experts have been sounding the alarm about the Caspian following the Aral Sea into extinction for some time (, and

            But the Kazakh political scientist’s discussion of this issue at a conference at the end of 2023 (which has now been published in a 3,000-word heavily footnoted article at is a sign that alarm about the fate of the Caspian is now moving from marginal groups to the center of policy concerns.

            Amangeldina says that water level of the Caspian has been declining more or less constantly since the beginning of the 20th century, although a slight rise two and three decades ago led many to conclude that the problem would go away on its own. But in 2023, the sea’s water level reached the lowest level ever, 29 meters below sea level.

            Most of the decline can be attributed to climate change, with precipitation in the region falling and evaporation increasing. But human causes are also critical: ever more people in the area are taking water from rivers that feed the sea and are desalinating the water of the sea itself to meet their needs.

            The situation is not yet irreversible, Amangeldina says; but it will require both the agreement of all five littoral states and international involvement. So far, such agreement has been in short supply. Even the 2018 convention on the delimitation of the sea remains unratified (by Iran) and has not gone into effect, and most governments are focused on their specific needs.

            Unless that changes and soon, the Caspian will likely “repeat the fate of the Aral Sea,” with far larger ecological, economic and political consequences given the size and importance of the Caspian Sea not only for the littoral countries but for the international community as well, she says.


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