The Sea of ​​Aral dies of thirst | Society


Where once there was water, now only sand remains. The so-called Aral Sea, in Central Asia, once the fourth largest lake in the world, is practically dry. And it has given way to a huge desert. Organizations that defend the environment and experts have been warning for years that the considers one of the biggest natural disasters. Produced, also, by the hand of man. The Aral Sea, between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which had an area of ​​about 67,300 kilometers and supplied a sixth of all the fish consumed in the Soviet Union, was losing flow as the engineers of the USSR diverted the rivers They fed it to nourish the dry steppes, with the aim of creating huge rice fields and other crops.

Today, only 10% of water remains. A water surface as large as Ireland has been lost. The huge inland sea has been transformed into smaller lakes. Each one with his own possibilities to get ahead, points out Petr Zavyálov, deputy director of the Academy of Oceanography of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In addition, the water that remains has a much higher salinity due to evaporation, which has contaminated it. And some of those basins are very polluted due to the herbicides and pesticides used in the plantations.

The collapse of the Aral Sea, of which the last report of the United Nations Department of the Environment released this Wednesday, has left uppercase sequelae. It is not only an environmental disaster, but also a social one. As a result of the desertification of the last decades, those that were once coastal cities were moving away from the water; and millions of fish died. The once prolific fishing industry languished until it almost disappeared. And that led to a great migratory exodus to more prosperous areas. Those who stayed, moreover, suffer health problems not only due to contaminated water, but also to dust storms, which contain toxic waste, warn specialists.

The citizens of that area have experienced pulmonary and cardiac problems, reduced fertility and growth retardation. An increase in cancer cases has also been detected, as revealed by several studies, for example one done in the field by researchers from the Institute of Physics of Uzbekistan. The inhabitants of the area complain, in addition, that the authorities they did not listen to their wake-up calls. For years, local fishermen stuck sticks in the lake to show that the water was decreasing. But nothing was done. Now, images of abandoned ships, like the wake of a ghost, bear witness to what it was.

It has been a decade since a project financed with international aid try to restore life to the Aral Sea. However, Zavyálov points out that this is almost impossible. And not only because it requires the cooperation of all the countries through which the rivers that feed it pass - in certain cases confronted or with bad relation to each other-- "In the now called small Aral Sea, which is to the north, the situation It has stabilized, fish have returned. In the rest of the ponds the situation is much worse. Fresh water must be administered to the sea, but now it is impossible because the water of the rivers is still used for agriculture, "he warns. "In addition, there is the factor of climate change," he adds.

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