TRAVEL GUIDE
The Aral Sea in Uzbekistan

The Aral Sea was an endorheic lake (one with no outflow) lying between Kazakhstan (Aktobe and Kyzylorda Regions) in the north and Uzbekistan (Karakalpakstan autonomous region) in the south. The Aral Sea translates as “Sea of Islands”, as it is surrounded by almost 1000 islands. There are other names for the lake, for example, the Arabs call it "Khvarazm", and the Russians call it the "Blue Sea".

Today, what remains of a large inland lake is only part of what it was in the 1950s and 1960s. In those years, the government of the Soviet Union diverted water from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya - two main rivers of the region - for irrigation of agricultural land. As a result, it pushed the hydrological system of the lake beyond sustainability. In the following decades, the fourth largest lake in the world was reduced to about one tenth of its former size and divided into several smaller bodies of water.

"The small Aral is not a real sea anymore," says a local resident. "The old one used to have waves 7 meters high." 

According to scientists, 70% of the decrease in sea level is due to economic activity, that is, irrational consumption of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers. The remaining 30% of the responsibility lies on climatic factors. However, the Aral is still alive, just in a different form. The former sea will never recover completely, but one can successfully support the life of the remaining lakes: the Small Aral and the Western Aral.

Since then Kazakhstan has been working on reanimation of the Aral Sea. The first innovation helped to save part of the fishing industry. With the support of the World Bank, the Kok-Aral Dam was built on the southern coast. The dam has ensured the growth of the northern lake by 20% since 2005. The second innovation was a hatchery plant "Komushbosh", where they produce the northern Aral Sea with sturgeon, carp and flounder. The hatchery was built with a grant from Israel. Forecasts suggest that the northern lake of the Aral Sea can soon provide between 10,000 and 12,000 tons of fish per year due to these measures. Fishery is developing successfully there.

The Western Aral Sea, most of which is located in Uzbekistan, is also gradually stabilizing. Now the Western Aral is a small salt lake with an area of 3270 square km. The depth of the Western Aral in some places may exceed 20 meters. Despite this, it is four times larger than the famous Dead Sea.

Go for an off-road adventure trip with stops in places closely connected with the history of the Aral Sea. http://ulyssetour.com/EN/tour/72/eco_tour_to_the_aral_sea_in_uzbekistan


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