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close this bookFreshwater Resources in Arid Lands (UNU, 1997, 94 p.)
close this folder1: Fresh water - A scarce resource in arid lands
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentInternational efforts
View the documentFresh water - A limited resource
View the documentA personal history
View the documentTraditional wisdom
View the documentProblems of major continental aquifers
View the documentThe Aral crisis - Ecocide in arid lands
View the documentHydropolitics along the Jordan river basin and the Dead Sea
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences

The Aral crisis - Ecocide in arid lands

Although I have seen many arid lands, my observations at Mouinak on the southern shore of the Aral Sea made the biggest impression on me. Because of misuse of water in the Amudaria and Syrdaria rivers (that is, excessive construction of canals to irrigate cotton fields since the 1960s), the influx from the two rivers to the Aral Sea decreased dramatically and fishermen were obliged to abandon their livelihoods. Abandoned fishing boats remain on the dried-up beach as historical ruins. A decrease in water and a shortage of drainage canals produced saline soils, and, during the windy season, the salt is blown toward the surrounding villages. The mortality rate of children is very high, and the shortage of fresh water gives the inhabitants desperate sanitary conditions. This is one of the worst man-made degradations in arid lands. The urgent need for the Aral area - fresh water!

It may be difficult to restore the sea level to the elevations of the early 1960s. The best way for the international community to help the people may be to cooperate for the rehabilitation of degraded lands and to support the establishment of a freshwater supply for the inhabitants. For this purpose, experts from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are now carrying out a feasibility study around Nukus on the possibility of utilizing fresh groundwater as a drinking-water supply.