The Salty Aral Sea

The Aral Sea is translated as “Sea of islands” by virtue of nearly 1000 islands surround it. The lake has other names as well, for example, Arabs call it "Khwarazm", while Russians call it "Blue Sea".

Today, what remains of the large inland lake is a fraction of what it used to be in the 1950 - 60s. In those years, the government of the  Soviet Union diverted water from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya - the regions' two major rivers - to irrigate farmland. As a result, it pushed the hydrologic system of the lake beyond the point of sustainability. During subsequent decades, the fourth largest lake in the world shrank to roughly a 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 decline in the sea level is due to economic activity, that is irrational consumption of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers. The other 30% of the responsibility lies on climatic factors. Nevertheless, the Aral is still alive, just in a different form. The former sea will never fully recover, but one can successfully maintain the life of the remaining lakes: the Small Aral and the Western Aral.

Since then, Kazakhstan has been working on resuscitating the Aral Sea. The first innovation helped to save part of the fishing industry. With support of the World Bank, the Kok-Aral Dam was built on the Southern shore. Thus, since 2005 the Northern lake has grown by 20%. The second innovation has been the construction of the Komushbosh Fish Hatchery, where they raise and stock the Northern Aral Sea with sturgeon, carp, and flounder. The hatchery was built with a grant from Israel. Predictions are that the Northern lake of the Aral Sea could soon produce 10,000 to 12,000 tons a fish on annual basis due to those two major innovations. Fisheries are developing successfully there. 

The Western Aral Sea, most of which is located on the territory of Uzbekistan, is also gradually stabilizing. Now the Western Aral is a small, highly saline lake with an area of 3270 sq km. The depth of the Western Aral in some places may exceed 20 m. Even so, it is four times bigger than the famous Dead Sea.

You are invited to check out the related tour, called Secrets of the Aral Sea.

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