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The Northern Aral Sea Returns To Life In Kazakhstan

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Author Topic: The Northern Aral Sea Returns To Life In Kazakhstan  (Read 21 times)
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« on: June 24, 2008, 01:41:14 pm »

Employees of a local fish hatchery work in in Koszhar village
on the shores of the Aral Sea in southwestern Kazakhstan.

The Aral Sea's fishing industry, devastated by a brutal Soviet
irrigation policy in the 1960s, is growing once again thanks to
a dam constructed by the World Bank and the Kazakhstan

(AFP/File/Antoine Lambroschini)

« Last Edit: June 24, 2008, 01:54:48 pm by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2008, 01:46:31 pm »

                                 The northern Aral Sea returns to life in Kazakhstan

by Antoine Lambroschini
Tue Jun 24, 2008
Kazakhstan (AFP) -

Fisherman Khaldan Kolzhanov's eyes fill with emotion at the sound of the seagulls and the sight of the small waves lapping at the beach.
Here in this corner of southwest Kazakhstan, thanks to the Kokaral dam, vast expanses of sand and salt have finally disappeared.

"Seventeen of the 30 types of Aral Sea fish live there again. My 25-year-old son is learning my trade now," says Kolzhanov, 54, who has struggled to earn a living for more than three decades.

At the start of the 1960s, the Soviet authorities condemned the sea, the size of the republic of Ireland, by diverting water from the Amu Darya river in Uzbekistan and the Syr Darya river in Kazakhstan for irrigation for cotton farming.

The fishing industry was ruined and one after another the different species of native fish disappeared.

The retreat of the water left in its place a desert of salt and chemical fertiliser, a mixture blamed for an
explosion in respiratory illnesses and a rise in cancer cases.

Since 2005, however, when the dam, constructed by the World Bank and the Kazakhstan government was completed at a cost of 86 million dollars, the smaller northern part of the Aral has increased in size by 50 percent and seen the return of some of its ecosystem.

At Aralsk, a port which three years ago was 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the water, the edge of the Aral is now visible on the horizon.

At the entrance to the town a sign proclaims proudly: "Good news, the sea is coming back!"

That day will not finally come until another dam is built in a second phase of the World Bank programme.
The 300 million dollar project is due to begin in 2009.

But the port, which has endured years of hardship caused by the retreat of the sea, has already seen its fishing industry partly revived.

With some 2,000 tonnes of fish caught last year, catches have risen by 40 percent in three years.

And with the the growth due to continue, business for fish exporters is looking up.

"Our factory is of European standards. We will export to Europe, in particular pike-perch fillets," said
Adylbek Aimbetov, co-owner of one factory.

Already, he says, his business is introducing 15 million fish a year to the lakes around the Aral, a figure
that he hopes will triple as the sea gradually returns.

For many years only sole survived in the sea after it was introduced in desperation to give the fishermen
some source of income.

Now, with salinity in the sea dropping as the waters rise, native species of fish that had disappeared are

World Bank President Robert Zoellick, on a recent visit to Kokaral, said construction of the dam proves
"manmade disasters.....can be at least partly reversed".

But the success of the dam can never compensate for the enormity of the tragedy inflicted on the Aral which was once the world's fourth largest inland sea.

Sadly, the waters of the larger, southern part of the sea, separated from the northern part for many years, continue to retreat.

"We are doing what is possible for the small sea (in the north). But the southern Aral is beyond saving," says Joop Stoutjesdik, the World Bank's head of irrigation programmes.

"Even if agriculture and irrigation stopped, and you can imagine the social and economic disaster, it would probably take 50 years for the sea to come back," he adds.
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