Crisis of The Aral Sea


For many years, the Aral Sea, located in central Asia between southern Kazakhstan and northern Uzbekistan, was the world's fourth largest salty lake, with close to 10 grains of salt per liter. This sea was nourished by two rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, until the government of the day diverted them for agricultural uses in the 10960s. This was the beginning of the river's troubles.

Examining the Sea's Issue

This has prompted an examination into the sea's issue following the diversion of its main water sources. The human alteration led to changes in some characteristics of the region around the sea. This ranged from its geography, population growth, and occurrence of dramatic consequences that needed to be accounted for after the digging of the canals. Such consequences have ranged from occurrence of unexpected climate feedbacks, public health issues which have affected millions of people within and out of the region (Finn 2007).

Impact of Agricultural Practices

For many years the water that was diverted for agricultural purposes has been used under irrigation for monoculture of cotton. This meant heavy application of pesticides such as herbicides and insecticides which have brought social, economical and ecological insecurities to the residents around. This has in turn created a critical situation for human health. The real tragedy is therefore in the impacts on well-being of people and ecological balance in the region. When trans-boundary water is mismanaged as in the case of this Aral Sea many things can actually go wrong to a point of irreversible. There has been occurrence of dramatic environmental degradation (Micklin 2007, p.50). The disappearance of the sea to more than half of its original size was as a result of the divergence of the main two river sources that fed the sea. The heavy saline sea beds have now become exposed and under the risk of being blown out by the rapid growth of wild plants. This has also seen the pace of desertification and degradation of the ecosystem going up. The local economy has been affected by the said large-scale irrigation project. This has resulted in the loss of livelihoods by close to 60,000 fishermen who relied heavily on fishing as a source of income. Salinity of agricultural soils has greatly increased and the cotton business has led to toxic pollution due to the judicious use of pesticides that are environmentally degrading (Finn 2007). These toxic pesticides create high risks to human health. Increased salinity of water and irrigated land are the biggest problems that farmers in this region are dealing with. They no longer get good produce out of their lands.

Solutions for Environmental Problems

The solution to all these environmental problems is for the government to put up regulations on the judicious use of pesticides by the cotton company. There is also the need to regulate excessive irrigation practices so as to save on the water from the rivers that can be used by the community around. For the case of degradation and desertification, the community should be engaged in growing riparian vegetation such as mangroves which are tolerant to salinity so as to save the sea beds. Water quality in this region has also been the main problem for the residents. River water and drinking water have deteriorated for the last 45 years. This is as a result of increased toxic minerals in the rivers as well as too many organic and inorganic substances which have continuously been discharged in the water, including nitrogen, pesticides, phenols, and phosphorus (World Bank 2010). Tons of toxic chemicals have been reported to contaminate the water and continued pollution is still being experienced. This water quality change has reduced the number of sea animals such as fish which cannot survive under such environments. The pollution of most water sources in this region is as a result of mining and agro-industries. The water standards have not been complied with by most water companies that produce drinking water. There are high levels of salts and minerals in the groundwater tables. Most schools and hospitals no longer provide quality safe drinking water. Because of the chronic exposure of the people to high levels of toxins and minerals, their health is becoming continuously risky. The only solution to the problems of water quality is to invest in demineralization plants which will assist in reducing mineral content in drinking water. As for the case of toxic chemicals in water, the government still needs to effect strict measures to the agro-industries regarding the types of chemicals they use on their fields (Micklin 2007, p.50). If possible, encourage organic farming that does not use pesticide applications on the farm. There is also the need to produce disease and pest-resistant cotton seeds so as to prevent farmers from using pest control measures in their farms.

Health Impact of Environmental Pollution

Effects of the environmental pollution are beginning to be felt in the health sector around this region. Most of the population here suffers from poor health as a result of the breakdown in the infrastructure related to health care. This is as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union and also due to ecological and socioeconomic factors. There is a parallel situation between the deteriorating health conditions and worsening situations in the ecology and also worsening economical conditions where residents are not able to cater for their health needs. There seem to be an increase in the diseases, especially tuberculosis, kidney, anemia, respiratory infections, allergies, cancer, and liver diseases (White 2009, p. 81). The life expectancy in this area has also declined from 64 to 51 years with women and children being the most vulnerable. There has also been an observation of high levels in reproductive pathology, i.e. miscarriages, infertility, and other childbirth complications. This has been accompanied by increased rates of birth abnormalities which is a serious consequence of pollution. High levels of organo-chlorine pesticides being seen in the plasmas of pregnant women and these pose severe consequences and risks to both the mother and unborn child. Form such findings it's evident that the entire population has been exposed to the severe pollution of the natural resources in this region (Kotchen & Young 2007, p. 150). It all stems from the introduction of cotton monoculture which led to the diversion of the seas main water sources towards agriculture. This has been compounded by the judicious use of pesticides on the farms. Many NGO's have been put up in the region to help solve the health hazards that have befallen the people of this region. Such organizations include the Karakalpak Center for Reproductive Health and Environment set up in 1992 to help improve the health conditions of women and children in the region. The center came up with programs that included cultivation of food in backyards that is purely organic to reduce on consumption of contaminated food crops. Many educational programs on health, environment, organic farming, and healthy nutrition have been pioneered by such organizations (Ataniyazova, 2003). Despite the efforts by these NGO's, little positive change has been experienced by the locals in the region. It's even proven that the situation is worsening. A drought that occurred in 2000-2001 severely impacted on the livelihoods of the locals in the region. It's famously stated that 'where there is no water there is no life' and this is becoming a reality to the residents of this area. This Aral Sea crisis has led to widespread environmental degradation, social, economical, and medical problems and it's now a human crisis.


With this Aral Sea crisis, it has now become a matter of emergency to extend help that is practical to these people and this should be aimed as first solving the water problem. An international coordinating body has to be set up by the UN with the mandate of monitoring distribution of water in this region. There has to be set limits in the use of water for purposes of irrigation. Also practices that will ensure the water is safe for drinking have to be set up and followed to the latter. There is the need to take wide scale measures which can relieve the society on the negative environmental impacts brought about by big agro-industrial projects which have not undergone proper environmental impact assessment. This will consolidate efforts to render support that is practical in improving the situation at Aral Sea.


Ataniyazova, A, 2003. Health and ecological consequences of the Aral Sea crisis. Viewed 11 November 2017 Paper prepared for the Third World Water Forum: Regional Cooperation in Shared Water Resources in Central Asia in Kyoto, Japan.

Finn, P, 2007. Aral Sea’s return revives withered villages. The Washington Post Tuesday. Viewed 11 November 2017 .

Kotchen, M. J., & Young, O. R 2007, ‘Meeting the challenges of the anthropocene: towards a science of coupled human-biophysical systems’, Global Environmental Change, Vol. 17, pp. 149–151.

Micklin, P, 2007, ‘The Aral Sea disaster’, Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Vol. 35, pp. 47–72.

White, K. D, 2009, ‘ A reconsideration of the geography of economic development in Central Asia’, Journal of Central Asian and Caucasian Studies, Vol. 4 no.8, pp.71–94.

World Bank. (2010). Kazakhstan-projects and programs, Syr Darya control and Northern Aral Sea phase I project. Viewed 11 November 2017 .

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price