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Lost Aral Sea

Yusuke Suzuki | Uzbekistan

A tiled wall shows destroyed glory of The Aral Sea at a train station in former fisherman town named Aralsk, Kazakhstan.

The Aral Sea, lays between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was one of the world's largest lakes in size. Aral means “Sea of islands”, which there used to be more than 1,534 islands on the lake. The Aral Sea had a great importance for fishing industry, especially with respect to a high quality of fish population species. The Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet Union irrigation projects. By 2007 it had declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into four lakes. By 2009, the south-eastern lake had disappeared and the south-western lake retreated to a thin strip at the extreme west of the former southern sea. There is now an ongoing effort in Kazakhstan to save and replenish the North Aral Sea. As part of this effort, a dam project was completed in 2005. The South Aral Sea, which lies in poorer Uzbekistan, was largely abandoned to its fate. Only excess water from the North Aral Sea is now periodically allowed to flow into the largely dried-up Southern Aral Sea through a sluice in the dike.

I visited The Aral Sea in 2010 during summer break. I wanted to see devastated lakes called "one of the planet's worst environmental disasters" since I watched a Japanese TV program about it. Since I was a extremely poor student, I was not able to have any translator. What I had was a "POINT-AND-SPEAK" prase book in Russian. During my trip, I saw some really unbelievable scenes, which was like as if I was in "Planet of the Apes". Abandoned old fishing boats lay in the middle of the desert, which there used to be huge beautiful lakes. Once-thriving fish town has almost gone. At first, I just couldn't believe what I was looking at through my eyes. I was so sad but then I harbored some amount of resentment at what human did to the Aral Sea. How could it be poosilbe? We souldn't do such a foolish things to nature never again for convenience of our life, money, whatever.



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