(International Observation) Why did saving the "dying" Aral Sea become the consensus of Central Asian countries?

  China News Agency, Astana, January 14

Question : Why did saving the "dying" Aral Sea become the consensus of Central Asian countries?

  China News Agency reporter Zhang Shuo

  The Aral Sea, once the largest saltwater lake in Central Asia, has shrunk seriously.

According to a draft water code recently released by Kazakhstan officials, the surface area of ​​the Aral Sea is less than 10% of its original area.

The "disappearing" Aral Sea has aroused concerns from the outside world, and saving the ecological environment in the region has also become the consensus of Central Asian countries.

The History of the Aral Sea's Demise

  The draft drafted by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Kazakhstan said that the shrinking of the Aral Sea is one of the ecological disasters in Central Asia.

Since the 1960s, the area of ​​the lake began to shrink, and it has now shrunk to 6,000 square kilometers. Among the 178 species of vertebrates living in the Aral Sea area, only 38 survived.

  The Aral Sea means "Sea of ​​Islands" and is so named because there were more than a thousand islands within one hectare.

The water of the Aral Sea comes from the two great rivers in Central Asia - the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya.

These two rivers flow through five countries in Central Asia, and finally flow into the Aral Sea at the junction of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

With a total area of ​​more than 69,000 square kilometers and an average depth of 16 meters, the Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world.

  "The end of the desert is still a desert. There is only a harsh climate and bare saline land." This is the description of the environment in the Aral Sea region in an article published by Uzbekistan journalist Rakhmatova last year.

  According to Central Asian media reports, the reasons for the shrinking of the Aral Sea include the continuous expansion of farmland, over-exploitation of water sources, lack of water-saving technologies, and accelerated temperature rise.

  For a long time, the cotton industry, which relies on irrigation, has played an important role in the economic development of the region. The continuous expansion of irrigated areas and the inefficiency of water use in farmland have greatly reduced the amount of water flowing into the Aral Sea.

In addition, neighboring countries lack a consensus on how to allocate water sources, and successively built reservoirs in river sections within their borders to generate electricity, resulting in upstream interception and water shortage downstream.

In recent years, climate warming and increased evapotranspiration caused by rising temperatures have also become one of the factors for the shrinkage of the Aral Sea.

  The shrinking of the Aral Sea has once again highlighted the serious shortage of water resources in Central Asia. The normal life of the local people has also been affected. In some areas, it is difficult to obtain clean drinking water. Influence, too high salt dust in the air is also easy to cause disease.

Wipe away the "tears of the earth"

  The crisis has attracted attention, and Central Asian countries have successively launched governance plans to restore the ecology of the Aral Sea, trying to heal the wounds and wipe away the "tears of the earth".

  In May 2021, at the initiative of Uzbekistan, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution aimed at improving the environment and local socio-economic activities in the Aral Sea region, and called for strengthening regional cooperation to overcome the Aral Sea crisis.

  For Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, it is more urgent and more important to jointly manage the Aral Sea.

In recent years, the two heads of state have shown greater political determination to this end.

According to statistics, the two sides have signed more than 300 bilateral cooperation documents, and launched the Aral Sea ecological restoration plan in the past two years.

  According to Kazakh media reports, in the past few years, the two countries have formulated emergency measures to maintain water and soil and suppress salt dust.

Both countries are planting drought-resistant plants mainly Haloxylon to the bottom of the dry lake. The planting area of ​​the sea basin in Uzbekistan has exceeded 2 million hectares.

  "The wind through the salt dust blows into the face, eyes and mouth, and the taste is very bitter. I hope that the Haloxylon forest can block the salt dust, and people will no longer suffer." Shadinov, a forester from Uzbekistan, accepted Kazakhstan News website "Tengrinews.kz" said in an interview.