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The Shrinking Aral Oasis

So this week we started talking about modern environmental problems – namely the Aral sea in the middle east. The Aral sea used to be one of the largest bodies of water in the area, but when the Soviet Union occupied the area during the cold war they diverted the river feeding the Aral from the north and used it for irrigation – making the deserts bloom and growing cash crops to export, feeding their ever expanding standoff with the United States. What they didn’t realize, or maybe didn’t care about, is this. The people of kazakhstan, who made their livelihood off of the abundant Aral sea, were left miles from the sea. How do we solve this? Well, there are a couple of ways we could do that – send the rivers back to the sea, filling it up, or suck the water from the nearby Caspian sea via a pipeline. Both of these are extremely costly, and there are many inherent problems with both of them – like the fact that the population of Kazakhstan has become dependent on their new farmland since the agriculture boom lets them feed the ever-growing populace. So they can’t just go back to the way things were, and they can’t move forward without causing the exact same issues to the Caspian sea and the surrounding lands. The part that absolutely killed me is that its in no way the fault of the people of Kazakhstan, they just happened to get their sea messed with by the Soviets. There’s no finger-pointing, no idiots that they shouldn’t have voted for, nothing. they just were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now they have to clean up this mess. The Soviet Union is like that bad party guest who knocks over the TV and then says “Oh hey I had a great time and all but I’m thinkin’ its time to roll out my man. Had a blast tho bro!” The USSR basically were this guy, thats the real heartbreaking issue here. I’m kindof at a loss for comments here, since my standard “How could they be so stupid!” response doesn’t apply here like it did with Easter Island or the Mayans….. This is just a bad luck kind of situation.


2 Responses to “The Shrinking Aral Oasis”

  1. 1 econklin

    This truly is an unfortunate situation. Your analogy between the Soviets and the “party guy”, while not exactly a technical description, certainly gets the point across. The people of Kazakhstan are faced with enormous environmental problems. Unfortunately there are no good solutions. The whole situation is just intensely sad, because the people in that region of Kazakhstan will struggle for decades regardless of the immediate fate of the Aral Sea.

  2. 2 Dr. Szulczewski

    You’re right- a lot of time the people who suffer didn’t even have a choice of the path that led them to where they are. That’s why international aid can be a very good thing.

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