Home

'Aral Tengizi: Story of a Dying Sea', Radek Skrivanek

openDemocracy Opendemocracy
8 April 2007

A second life for the Aral Sea?

Radek Skrivanek's photo-documentary project explores the legacy of the former Soviet regime and its destructive impact on the environment of Central Asia, specifically, the Aral Sea.

The demise of the Aral Sea - once the world's fourth largest inland body of water - has been described by the United Nations as "the worst man-made environmental disaster of the 20th century". According to a 1999 UNDP report, it was estimated that the "sea" had reduced in size by more than 60% since the 1960s.

Former sea cliffs, Barsakelmesh Island, Aral Sea © Radek Skrivanek

Former sea cliffs, Barsakelmesh Island, Aral Sea © Radek Skrivanek

The seeds of this water crisis were planted in 1959 when the Soviet Union picked Central Asia to serve as its cotton supplier. The scale and intensity of this new agricultural policy required that the Aral Sea's feeder rivers - Syr Darya and Amu Darya - were to be diverted to provide the vast amounts of water needed to irrigate the cotton fields.

However, life seems to be returning to the sea. A few years ago, the Kazakh government secured a $68m loan from the World Bank to build a dam and split the sea into two parts. Kazakh officials say this helped restore 40% of the sea on their side (though it is still shrinking in the Uzbek side). A new $126m loan will begin the second phase of saving the sea, and building another dam. Development experts predict that water could be back in the deserted port of Aralsk by 2010.

Dry seabed, near Barsakelmesh Island, Aral Sea

Dry seabed, near Barsakelmesh Island, Aral Sea © Radek Skrivanek

Fish in formaldehyde (Som & Sazan), lost species of the Aral Sea

Fish in formaldehyde (Som & Sazan), lost species of the Aral Sea © Radek Skrivanek

Radek Skrivanek's work is currently exhibited at the PEER Gallery in New York through to May 15, 2007.

Urgent: help us expose dark money in politics

Cambridge Analytica was the tip of the iceberg. openDemocracy is investigating how dark money is influencing what we see, hear and think across the world. We have many fresh leads to chase down, but need your support to keep going. Please give what you can today – it makes a difference.

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email

Comments

We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram