Aral sea is one of those very sad places. What used to be a sea not so long ago is a desert now – as a consequence of Soviet greed to grow cotton and they are still growing it in Uzbekistan today.
Pretty much all the water from the Amu Darya river is used on cotton fields. What used to be a port city with a fish factory is now 200 km away from the shore with with “famous” ship cemetery and desert with shells lying around. It is actually quite an interesting place. While Kazakhstan decided to preserve their part of the sea – they built a dam close to the border and at water levels are higher on Kazakh side.
Local bus there? Yes, hurry up we are leaving now. One or two busses go daily to Muynak from Nukus – STUFFED WITH EVERYTHING – 50 kg flour bags, bags of veggies and fruits, spare tires, a stove, money stored above the door, empty bottles!! It was much fun to observe for another few hours what they will bring on the bus. We had literally no space for our legs and luckily we weren’t stabbed by anything. Next morning all those empty bottles bags travel back to Nukus, full of milk and kefir.
Ever wondered how is to jump into time machine? Khiva looks like that. And feels weird with no azan (prayers call) while sitting surrounded with all the minarets. I’m still bit angry that the guys didn’t finish the super high minaret to see all the way to Bukhara 🙂 What they started to build looks like a great beginning to see to a city 400 km away!
So .. what happened with the sea? Muynak used to be a port city where most of people lived from fish business – either as fisherman or working in a fish can factory. Now the city is something like 200 km away from the shore. And what is left from sea is dead. Poisoned. Über salty. Old ships lying around in what is now desert with sea shells in the sand and some small bushes.
It started by Soviet obsession with cotton – everywhere in Uzbekistan. 50 years later, the sea has just 10% of water of what it used to have. Literally all river is used on the fields to grow mostly cotton in a semi-desert. While the sea lies between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan decided to preserve and try to save what is left.
When Kazakhstan decides to do something, there is no middle way. Is like all or nothing – Kazakh style. Dear Uzbekistan – if you don’t agree with it, it’s not our problem, we gonna save our part. Don’t you dare to take any liter of water we put back. Naaah, sorry, not gonna work.
Bummer. You don’t want to mess up with Kazakhstan – already decided to save the sea. Uzbekistan, are you in?
Not? You gonna keep on growing cotton because all world needs it? Yes, is a tricky decision to make, we can’t blame you for it.
No problem, thank you for your cooperation, we will save just our part than, bye.
So, the Dike Korokal Dam was built and now divides the Aral sea into two parts. Water level is increasing in the north part and apparently even fish are back. Probably still not recommended to eat them, but is definitely a step forward.
Thank you Kazakhstan.