For over a thousand years the Aral Sea in Central Asia was one of the largest inland bodies in the world, covering an area the size of West Virginia, The sea and its surrounding delta sustained life through a bustling fishing industry and other activities for a host of different ethnic groups. But starting in the 1920’s the Soviet Union began to channel water out of the sea to develop a vast cotton plantation. Little attention was paid to the environmental risks this posed and over time most of the sea dried up, leaving vast salt pans and dust laced with toxic pesticides such as DDT that are now found throughout the food chain.
In Sins of the Aral Sea, National Geographic reporter Mark Synnott offers a cautionary tale about what happens when governments ignore the delicate balance found in natural eco-systems. Even today Uzbekistan forces some 29 million of its citizens to pick cotton to reach the daily quotas. Click Photo Gallery for dramatic photos of what has happened to this region. And here is a short BBC Video that recounts the disappearance of the Aral Sea and reports on efforts to save a small remnant of the sea, the North Aral Sea.
Posted: June 12, 2015