I caught a PBS show called Journey to Planet Earth today. This episode focused on Uzbekistan and the ecological disaster in the Aral Sea. I had no idea what’s been going on over there and it’s a real eye opener, particular when BushCo continue to degrade our own environmental protections.
Uzbekistan was the site of an ambitious Soviet irrigation project in the 60s. One hundred thousand miles of irrigation canals turned desert into cotton-yielding land. It also turned the biggest river in the country into a trickle. Over the years more and more water was sucked into the countryside, drastically reducing the amount of water that dumped into the Aral Sea—once the world’s fourth largest inland body of water. Over the past forty years the Aral Sea has halved in size. This has been an ecological disaster of enormous scale. Uzbekistan’s largest port is now 90 miles from water. A sea that once provided 50,000 tons of fish a year has been devastated and the people that worked on the sea have seen their livelihoods literally dry up. To make matters worse, the exposed seabed is laced with chemical residue that is whipped into the air by passing windstorms. The air is amongst the most polluted in the world. Five percent of the babies born in the area have birth defects; ten percent don’t survive their first year.
You can read more about it here:
The page is titled “Stories of Hope”, though I’m not sure why. There doesn’t seem to be much possibility of this situation getting better. The end of the show talked about Palm Springs in CA possibly heading for a similar fate, since it is losing water to San Diego. Maybe the hope is that it won’t happen here. With the state of environmental regulation being what is though, I wouldn’t bet on it.