Aral Sea Ecological Disaster
Moynaq, Muynoq, Uzbekistan
Aral Sea Ecological Disaster Muynoq Reviews
The Aral Sea is conspicuous by its absence ... Jan 12, 2010
The Aral Sea disaster was initiated when Soviet planners diverted rivers flowing into the northern area of the sea to maximise cotton production elsewhere in Central Asia. The planners predicted the sea would die, but did not seem to care. The sea is now 10% of its original size, and the consequences have been brutal on the surrounding area. As the water level dropped the salt concentration rose to epic proportions, killing all life in it. The ecosystem surrounding the sea changed permanently as did the climate. Summers are harsher, the soil is ruined – now only barren desert remains. The local wildlife is almost nil. High levels of dust in the atmosphere now make respiratory problems common. This is not helped by the fact that ‘Rebirth Island’ in the middle of the sea was used as a chemical weapons testing area by the Soviets. As the water receded, this ‘island’ is now linked by a land bridge to Moynaq.
As the water dashed away from the port, canals were dug originally to give the fishing fleet access to the retreating sea, but gradually it became impossible and parts of the fleet now lie as scrap in a ships graveyard. The towns fishing industry is now nonexistent. The majority of the Aral Sea is now effectively dead. The water can be reached from Moynaq by a two-day cross country drive across desert and mudflats. Google maps can provide the location of many of the remaining ships.
Though the majority of the sea is beyond saving, a small area of the sea has been saved in Kazakhstan by building a huge barrier. Marine life has been reintroduced, and is slowly starting to recover in the area. I’d really like to hear from anyone that has visited the Aral Sea on the Kazakhstan side.
Moynaq is best reached from Nukus, or Khiva. Excursions can be arranged through the Khiva tourist information office, most hotel receptions or just bartering with taxi drivers. Normally it would be wrong to stare at disasters, but so much can be learnt about how much we need to look after the environment, local ecosystems and the worst side of Communism that a trip can be done in good taste.
As Moynaq’s economy is now in tatters, any extra help that you can do to stimulate it is greatly appreciated by the locals. All are friendly, though seem embarrassed and apologetic about their situation. The ships are located at the northern end of Moynaq, next to a cliff top view point overlooking the ‘sea’. In central Moynaq there is a small museum, which is definitely worth a visit. It highlights the wildlife that used to be found in the area, and has excellent old photographs of the fishing port in all its glory. In summer the desert is like an anvil as the sun beats against it. Take lots of water, sun block and a big stupid floppy hat.
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