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Destruction of the Aral Sea Uzbekistan Created by: Michael Jolitz Geography 308 Russia and Eastern Europe Professor Zoltan Grossman University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Location Water Syr Darya

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Destruction of the Aral Sea UzbekistanCreated by: Michael JolitzGeography 308 Russia and Eastern EuropeProfessor Zoltan GrossmanUniversity of Wisconsin Eau Claire




Syr Darya

  • The Amu Darya, in the west, and the Syr Darya, in the east
  • Their 600 tributaries take source in the Tien Shan and the Alai highlands.
  • They feed waterways on their way to the Aral Sea.
  • The rivers fall short of feeding the Sea properly to sustain it.
  • The desert has reclaimed a good portion of the Aral Sea and the rest struggles to survive.

Amu Darya


Syr Darya Tributaries

Syr Darya

Amu Darya

The Syr Darya is formed by the confluence of the Naryn

and Qoradaryo rivers in the eastern Ferghana Valley

With a length of 1,374 miles -1,876 miles including the

Naryn—the Syr Darya is the longest river in Central Asia

The Amu Darya is formed by the junction

of the Vakhsh and Pandj rivers, which rise

in the Pamir Mts. of central Asia. Its length

is 1,600 miles long

water and pollution
Water and Pollution
  • Once the 4th biggest inland sea in the world
  • 53 Meters above sea level
  • Evaporation – 60 square Kilometers of water each year
  • Environmental disaster
  • Large Controversy
  • Boron Pollution
  • Phenol Pollution

  • Upstream irrigation for the growing of rice and cotton consumed more than 90% of the natural flow of water from the Tien Shan mountains.
  • Sea Surface declined
  • 27,000 square kilometers of former sea bottom became dry surface
  • 60% of water volume was lost

Simple Irrigation System


Cotton Harvest, Uzbekistan

  • Major Uzbekistan Crop

since Soviet era

  • Intense Agriculture
  • Pesticides
  • Intense Irrigation
  • Fertilizers


  • thriving environment until the 1960's
  • extensive irrigation schemes put in place
  • River water diverted from Tien Shan Mountains,
  • Would normally have flowed into the Aral sea
  • Huge amounts of this diverted water lay as stagnant pools across vast, badly managed cotton and rice fields. As a result the Aral has now lost more than 60% of its water.


  • South of the Aral Sea
  • Rice Paddy Fields are shown by the square boxes
  • This fields have a very high water portion. – shown by Landsat Image
  • There are also artificial fishing ponds.
  • Usually filled in early spring helps to allow the fishing industry to survive.

  • Once a busy shipping trade between its northern port of Aralsk and the river ports of the Amu-Darya, some as distant as Tajikistan
  • Aralsk is now landlocked about 100 km from the water. It, like Muynak has fishing boats sitting high and dry on what was once the bottom of the Aral Sea.
life blood
Life “blood”
  • Once abundant fish resources
  • Once provided a livelihood for several hundred thousand people.
  • People living around those canals and using those waterways now depends on their existence--the very existence that sucks the life "blood" of the Aral.
fishing industry
Fishing Industry
  • 20 species of fish
  • Fish was based on three species of fishes: bream, sazan, Aral roach (vobla). A very valuable fish - Aral barbal and white-eye were caught in the Aral Sea.
  • Located in coastal areas and rivers mouths.
  • Annual catching was 300-400 thousand centners (220.46 lbs) of fish.

Fish Catching in the Aral Sea (tons)




Aral roach (vobla).

  • Shrinking steadily, adding to the desertification of the lakebed
  • Contamination of the region by exposing DDT, chemical pesticides, and natural salts.
  • Hazardous materials that are strewn about by wind, not only contaminate the food chain, water, and air but cause countless human health disorders.
  • A number of buried nuclear waste processing and chemical weapons sites that damage the soil.
  • Salinity has increased from 10 grams/liter to 40-50 grams/liter from 1960 to near present.
  • This is due to the lack of fresh water inflow
  • Drinking water in the region contains four times more salt per litre than the limit recommended by the World Health Organization

This figure shows areas where the environment in Uzbekistan and the surrounding areas have been severely degradated.

  • The impact of losing water has caused severe salinization

salt pans
Salt Pans

The white large object on the left border of the image is an artificial salt pan. Discharge water, which is highly contaminated by salt accumulation, is diverted into such pans in order to decrease soil salinity. From these pans the water

evaporates totally unused and

creates salt crusts and olonchaks.

Salt Pan

Health dc/briefs/vozipres.htm

  • TB,
  • Throat cancer
  • Tuberculosis
  • Many children are born with defects.
  • Typhoid,
  • Paratyphoid
  • Hepatitis contaminated drinking water
  • Intestinal disease
  • Cancers
  • Anemia
  • Dystrophy
  • Cholera
  • Dysentery

The Aral Sea region has one of the world’s highest rates of malformed or handicapped children

climate effects
Climate Effects
  • Drier shorter summer
  • Longer Colder Winters
  • Growing Season now 170 Days
  • Pasture Productivity declined by Half
  • Higher Evaporation Rates
dust storms
Dust Storms
  • More than 50 days of storms a year
  • 20-25 meters per second om/brochures/duststrm.htm

  • Aral Sea is located along a powerful air stream running from west to east.
  • It contributes to aerosol

transference into upper

layers and fast spread in the

atmosphere of the Earth.

Dust Storm From Aral Region

effects of dust storms
Effects of Dust Storms
  • Reduces visibility to less than a quarter mile.
  • Respiratory ailments, Asthma
  • Erosion, Desertification, Crop Damage
  • The erosion loosens up contaminated toxic soils.


  • Traces of pesticides from the Aral region were found in the blood of penguins in the Antarctic
  • Aral dust has been found on Greenland's glaciers
  • Norway's forests
  • Belarus' fields
  • All situated thousands of kilometers away from Central Asia.
  • Vozrozhdeniya Island - New York Times Article
  • “Renaissance Island”
  • Anthrax Storage Facility
  • During Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika campaign
vozrozhdeniya island
Vozrozhdeniya Island
  • The island was once 77 square miles
  • In 1999 770 Square miles
  • Fear of Terrorism
  • Yeltsin vowed in 1992 to clean up
  • Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have both independently asked for US help.
radioactive waste
Radioactive Waste
  • MAYLUU-SUU, Kyrgyzstan
  • Outside the rusting, closed Izolit uranium-processing plant, 23 radioactive waste sites exist in the landslide-prone hills
  • Could spill poison into the river below and on to the most populous region of Central Asia.
  • About 70 million cubic feet of tailings left from refining uranium ore during the Soviet era are buried in this mountain valley along the Mayluu-Suu River.
  • Fergana Valley, the region's agricultural heartland with 12 million inhabitants.
radioactive waste29
Radioactive Waste
  • In Kazakhstan, huge mining and metallurgy complexes were built
  • They have never been modernized
  • Intense local air pollution.
  • In the west of Kyrgyzstan, radioactive waste from uranium plants is stocked without protection and risks polluting the rivers in neighboring Uzbekistan.
  • These Eventually may reach the Aral Sea.


Coal Mound on Roadside

Kazakhstan Factory

radioactive waste31
Radioactive Waste

Concentration of Radioactive Waste Storage in the Ferghana Valley

Biological Waste Facility Shown in Aral Sea

neutralization of the problem
Neutralization of the Problem
  • 1980’s cultivation of new large irrigated areas banned
  • Large scale water resource projects introduced
  • 1993 – Crosspiece Divided Aral Sea and water from the Syrdarya was diverted back into one part. Vegetation started to recover and salinity decreased.
  • It was destroyed in 1999

A footnote about the Aral Sea Disaster: The locals around the Aral sea joke that if everyone who'd come to study this disaster had brought a bucket of water, the sea would be full again by now.

  • Aral Sea -
  • Earth Observatory Nasa -
  • New York Times -
  • Washington Times -
  • The Water Page -
  • Veggie Global -