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Home / Archive of headings / Our love and pain, Aral!

Our love and pain, Aral!

The two-day trip to Karakalpakia of the environmental journalists from the capital and the local colleagues who joined them in Nukus allowed not only to take part in various events, meet interesting people from the northern region, but also to once again come into contact with the global ecological tragedy, whose name is the Aral Sea.

The media tour was organized by the Central Asian Regional Environmental Center (CAREC) in the framework of the EU-funded project on awareness and partnership for sustainable water and environmental development in Uzbekistan.

The main thing in this trip, according to the organizers, was, of course, a "round table" dedicated to the prospects for the development of the Muynak District and water-saving technologies. But the employees of CAREC, apparently well aware that the reports in Muynak alone will be a bit "nosy" for journalists, tried to revive them with vivid and lively information about the past and present of the Aral Sea. And it was this that gave all participants in the media tour an unforgettable experience, coming to the fore.

It should be reminded that the problems arose and took on alarming proportions in the 60s of the XX century as a result of thoughtless regulation of the major transboundary rivers of the region - the Syrdarya and the Amudarya, due to the runoff of which the Aral in the past received about 56 cubic km of water. The significant growth of the population living here, the scale of urbanization and intensive development of lands, the construction in the past of large hydrotechnical and irrigation facilities on the watercourses of the basin of this sea, without taking into account the environmental consequences, created the conditions for the drying out of one of the most beautiful reservoirs on the planet. In fact, during the lifetime of one generation, a whole sea was lost, the process of degradation of the environment continues, turning the Aral Sea into a lifeless desert.

The consequences can be said for a long time. For example, more than 75 million tons of dust and poisonous salts are rushed to the atmosphere every year from the Aral Sea. Dust trails, lifted from the bottom of the former sea, reach 400 km in length and 40 km in width. According to scientists, Aral dust has already been recorded in the glaciers of the Pamir and Tian Shan mountains, as well as the Arctic. In the Aral Sea region, a complex set of ecological, climatic, socio-economic and demographic problems emerged, which have far-reaching, menacing global consequences.

Or another fact - in the Aral Sea more than half of the gene pool of plant and animal life has disappeared. 11 species of fishes, 12 species of mammals,
26 species of birds, 11 species of plants were virtually disappeared.

The scarcity of water resources, the decrease in the quality of drinking water, pollution and land degradation, the sharp decline in biodiversity, the deterioration of the health and gene pool of the population, climatic changes as a result of increased turbidity of the atmosphere and possibly the associated decrease in glacier area in Pamir and Tian Shan mountains, where a significant part of the runoff of the main rivers of the region is formed - all this is only a short list of the results of the Aral Sea tragedy.

But it's one thing to read about this tragedy in various publications or even in encyclopedias, it's quite another to see with your own eyes.

When you see an open-air museum called "ship cemetery", the heart involuntarily contracts. Having climbed onto a pile of rusty iron it is somehow difficult to imagine a fishing schooner plowing the most beautiful pond in the world, the joyful cries of sailors after successful fishing, the happy faces of their relatives waiting for the fishermen on the shore.

After all, a ship in the sand, surrounded by thorny bushes - this is a tragedy, this is nonsense, it should not be. And looking from the former Muynak pier to the desert stretching beyond the horizon, it is very difficult to dream about the sea, which took 200 kilometers.

When I flew to Nukus, I talked to my neighbor in an airplane living in Karakalpakia. To my regret that the Aral was tragically killed, he responded with a rather unexpected statement: let him not perish, this is all temporary, we do not need to bury him permanently, after some time the sea will necessarily revive. Required! And such conviction was in his words, he radiated such optimism that
I did not even want to argue with him, afraid to offend.

Then, at a meeting with the director of the Nukus branch of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS), Rashid Koshekov, where he gave a detailed account of the causes and consequences of the Aral tragedy and the work currently underway, I told him about this conversation and asked: what caused this optimism of local residents, what are they ancient legends that are among the population?

To my surprise R. Koshekov, the influence of the "legends" was completely rejected, moreover, he himself expressed confidence that "sooner or later, when we may no longer exist, the Aral Sea will reappear in this ancient land!"

Is it a dream? Or a hypothesis that has a scientific basis? The head of the Nukus branch of IFAS explained that Aral had already disappeared in its history, but then ... reappeared. Why not repeat this scenario? According to the scientist, who paraphrased a well-known catch phrase about a lever capable of turning the earth, if there are financial means, it is quite possible to revive the Aral Sea. But they are just catastrophically short.

The conversation with Rashid Koshekov made journalists more optimistic. After all, we want so much to believe, despite the severe verdict of scientists and ecologists that the Aral Sea will return, will necessarily return ... Even if it's just a dream!

And behind the "round table", which was held in the building of the municipality of Muynak, the prospects for the development of this area, including its ecotourism potential, were discussed.

Hokim of the district Sailavbay Daniyarov was elected to this post a few months ago. He gives the impression of an energetic and purposeful leader who knows firsthand about existing problems and how to solve them. And he believes that it is necessary to attract the attention of the media and the general public to the unique Muynak district located in the zone of ecological catastrophe.

If now foreign tourists come to Nukus, to visit, mainly, in the Savitsky Museum, then in the near future, in the opinion of the hokim, their in mass order should be interested in the "cemetery of ships" in Muynak, and numerous lakes with the possibility of fishing, and many other environmental objects.

Well, the tourist prospects of Muynak district, when the ecological beauties of the northern region will add to the ancient monuments of Khiva for foreign tourists, plus the Savitsky museum and other objects of Nukus, look quite attractive. It's only the implementation of these interesting ideas.

However, even a trip along the main street of Muynak leaves a not very pleasant impression. It seems that this is not a city, but an abandoned mountain village. Even gravel on the road have not yet been laid out, what else to talk about other tourist infrastructure. It affects some kind of unsettled and untidy of this small town, everywhere lying trash.

From an accidental conversation with the locals you will find out that in the city there is literally nowhere to "put your hands on", there is nowhere to spend your free time. Especially it concerns young people. Therefore, many of them leave their native places in search of a better share.

Can a young and energetic hokim break this situation? I would like to hope for it.

Other reports, which sounded at the round table, allowed the participants of the media outlet to learn more about the activities of CAREC. This Center has become a true leader of environmental cooperation in the region. For more than 15 years, the organization has implemented over 230 projects totaling 48 million euros. During this period, CAREC demonstrated high technical and organizational potential on the basis of five thematic programs, such as "Education for Sustainable Development", "Program of Water Initiatives" and others.

During the trip, a magnificent cultural program was organized for its participants. In particular, journalists visited the legendary Art Museum named after
I.V. Savitsky, also called the "Louvre in the Desert". It is noteworthy that during the excursion to the museum his guide dwelled in detail on the paintings devoted to the Aral Sea.

As part of the media tour, journalists also visited the necropolis of Mizdahkan - an extensive complex that arose in the 4th century BC. This is one of the most mystical places of Uzbekistan, surrounded by secrets, legends and myths. Necropolis includes the fortress of Gyaur-Kala, several mausoleums, a caravanserai and a cemetery. The total area is more than 200 hectares. There is an opinion that one of the tombs has healing properties - women come here praying to get rid of infertility.

Do not leave indifferent and Nukus - it is developing, everywhere you can see new buildings and tower cranes. In general, saying goodbye to Karakalpakia, I sincerely want to return here again.

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