Yasodara Karunaratne 12.4


The Aral Sea in definition can be best described as a basin in Central Asia that is located between Kazakhstan, northern Karakalpakstansan and in a generous region of Uzbekistan which is in the South [Fig. 1]. This map accurately depicts the significance of the Aral Sea in a regional scale as there are only two countries bordering the sea as opposed to a cluster of countries (whereby the significance would be national) and thus only two countries with immediate contact with the basin.  The Aral Sea was a creation made in the location where two major rivers in the name of Amu Darya and Syr Darya met. In previous years, The sea was declared as the fourth largest inland sea but has been steadily shrinking and drying up since the 1960’s due to diversion of the Amu and Syr Darya as means of water supplements for Soviet Union irrigation projects. These drastic actions have impacted both the safety of the drinking water in the area as well as the health of the locals.

        In the year of 1981, the decision of the diversion of Amu and Syr Darya was officially declared by the Soviet Union as means of irrigation for the desert where the growth of rice, cotton, cereals and melons would be attempted. This decision was a branch in the plan of developing the cotton industry as becoming one of the most major exports. Even though this plan had clear success with Uzbekistan being one of the largest cotton exporters in the world, the Aral Sea on the other hand was gradually being destroyed. However, as mentioned in the introduction the “regional scale” meant that the bordering countries (Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan) were the nations that were immediately and directly affected.

         In present conditions, the Aral Sea has decreased in area by 10% and has consequently divided into the Northern and the Southern Aral Sea. In addition to this, the river flow in to the Aral Sea has drastically shrunk to 2-5 km3 during the period of the 1980‘s (the changes in terms of water in the basin over a considerable period of time can be clearly seen through Fig. 2). This action brought about devastating effects as the equilibrium between the water loss due to evaporation and water fed into the sea was broken hence resulting in the net loss of water and thus, the shrinking of the sea. The Aral Sea basin is home to about 14,752 glaciers, however, in recent years it has been obvious that these ice reserves are diminishing due to a rise in temperatures (Fig. 3). In addition, due to rise in temperatures, it is estimated that higher evaporation rates will begin to commence alongside elevated levels of water consumption (up to 10%) for agricultural uses. Looking at Fig. 4 it is obvious that the countries bordering the Aral Sea (Kazakhstan & Uzbekistan) have much higher water abstraction rates (mainly for agriculture) than flow generation rates (water available from rainfall and glacier melt) emphasizing on the human induced aspect of the destruction. This information presented serve as a proofs, showing how human factors such as the exploitation of the water from the Aral Sea for agricultural uses has resulted in the present circumstances of the area.

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        The most major use of the water from the Aral sea was and still remains to be for agricultural purposes. As mentioned in the writing above, agricultural demands have deprived this large Central Asian salt lake of enough water to sustain itself, and hence shrunk rapidly.  Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and other Central Asian areas utilize the water to grow cotton and other export crops as means of boosting economies financially. Not to mention, the transition of originally growing food crops in the area which only needed to be partially irrigated to cotton and rice which need to widely irrigated (resulting in ...

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An excellent summary of the Aral Sea case study, using appropriate figures to give evidence. Potential for further use of data in places. 5 stars