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The Aral Sea’s Environmental Issues Essay

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Updated: Apr 13th, 2020

Lack of adequate control measures on environmental degradation is the primary causative agent of the current disappearing world ecosystems and habitats. That is, due to misuse or poor usage of the world natural resources. Currently, most world natural habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate, with little conservation efforts to control or reduce the rate.

A good example of the most degraded natural habitat is the Aral Sea. Prior to its destruction, the Sea was one of the biggest water bodies, rich in different species of flora and fauna; a case that is opposite today, as the sea is almost becoming extinct (Water Policy International, 2001, p.1).

The Aral Sea's Environmental Issues
(Delany, 2010, P.1)

The Aral Sea

Previously, this was one of the biggest salt lakes in the world hence, it’s previous fourth position among the largest world water bodies. It is important to note that, this was back in the 1960s, something that has undergone transition due to its current rank, as one of the fastest disappearing water bodies. Geographically, two major countries of the Central Asia Desert (Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) share the sea although its southern section stretches into Karapakalstan.

Prior to its destruction, two primary rivers Syr Darya and the Amu Darya supplied the sea with water, a fact that changed as surrounding communities intensified their agricultural practices hence, draining water from its two supplying tributaries. It is important to note also that, the sea has no outflows hence, these two tributaries and ground inflows are major determinants of its volume of water (Micklin, 2007, p.48).

Before its destruction, the sea was a great contributor to the surrounding communities’ economies, because the sea not only provided fish for export, but it also provided water for irrigation; hence, greatly boosting agriculture. Such benefits to the surrounding communities never lasted for long, with the diversion of the two tributaries’ water by the Soviet Union. That is, venturing off the Soviet Union into extensive agricultural and industrial production marked the onset of the seas’ disappearance.

Due to reduced water supply, from these two tributaries, increased surrounding population, poor drainage, and high evaporation rates, the sea started to disappear; hence, its present state. It is important to note that, previously the countries sharing the sea were under a single dominion, the Soviet Union (Delany, 2010, p. 1).

Effects of the Drying Up Of the Sea

The drying up of this water body has not only led to many economic problems to the surrounding communities, but also the drying has caused many climatic problems in the general environment. This is because, before its destruction, the sea was the primary climatic regulator of the surrounding environments. The sea was the primary controller of the cold Siberian winds hence, acting as a temperature regulator during hot summers; a fact that research studies attribute to the desert-like nature of most parts of central Asia.

Due to the inability of the sea to perform this function, currently most parts of Central Asia experience dry, hot, and reduced summers, something contrary in winter, which is long and very chilly. Such variations in summer and winter periods have led to the current reduced growing season, necessary for maturity of cotton. It is important to note that the main causes of such reduced summers (Delany, 2010, p.1).

The diminishing levels of water have also caused increased pollution, a fact that researchers attribute to the strong air currents, which are main carriers of aerosols into the natural atmosphere. This has had adverse effects on the worlds’ fauna, as research findings have shown that, some penguin species of the Antarctic region have some dangerous chemicals found in pesticides.

In addition, due to increased desertification of the sea, which is the primary cause of desiccation, the aerosols have greatly polluted the glaciers of the AltaVista and Himalayas This is because; the increased amounts of contaminated substances carried by air, and mineralization of rain make ice to melt. Hence, the rapidly increasing rate of glacier melting.

This is very dangerous not only to the world natural habitats but also to communities surrounding the glaciated areas, glaciers being the primary source of fresh domestic water (Delany, 2010, Para. 12-15).

Apart from these climatic effects, there is an increased number of storms, characterized by strong and destructive winds. Such storms have caused the build-up of salts in water reservoirs used in agriculture hence, causing the current poor agricultural state of surrounding communities.

This is because; the strong winds accelerate evaporation rates, which in turn increases the salt accumulation rate not only in the sea but also on surrounding soils. Such accumulations have caused deaths of both sea and other living organisms present in soils, which are of great importance to the ecosystem (International Fund on the Aral Sea, 2000, Para. 17-25).

In addition to the adverse effects on climate resulting from the drying of the sea, the drying of the water body has caused many social-economic problems on the surrounding communities. Before its current condition, the sea was the main backbone of the surrounding communities’ economies, due to its richness in marine products and the nature of support it had on agriculture. These state changed with its destruction, a fact that has contributed to the alleviated poverty levels of the surrounding communities.

Currently, as compared to other regions that make the Soviet Union, communities in these areas are the poorest. Also, increased child and maternal mortality rates, and high cases of infectious diseases, for example, hepatitis, typhus, tuberculosis, asthma, blood and heart complications, and cancer have made the living conditions even harder to inhabitants of this region.

It is important to note that, research findings attribute these conditions to the changing climatic and ecological conditions resulting from the drying of the sea. On the other hand, because of the increased salinity of the sea’s waters, most fishing and processing industries, which depended on raw materials from the sea have collapsed; hence, causing a great economic crisis to the communities surrounding the sea (Micklin, 2007, pp. 54-57).


In conclusion, although the s of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, world environmental conservation bodies, for example, USAID, UNDP, UNEP, and World Bank, and concerned communities have come up with measures to control the rate at which the sea is shrinking, still there is a need for more planning and policy implementation.

It is important to note that, currently the surrounding communities are constructing dikes and dams to retain the diminishing sea’s water, efforts that have achieved a lot although still, the struggle to save the sea needs more efforts.

Reference List

Delany, M. (2010). Aral Sea. Hydrology GEO, 611, 1. Web.

International Fund on the Aral Sea. (2000). The Aral Sea. IFAS. Web.

Micklin, P. (2007). The Aral Sea disaster. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 35, 47-72.

Water Policy International. (2001). The Aral Sea. Web.

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