#3 The Aral Sea
The Aral Sea, for those who don’t know, was formally one of the largest body of inland water, comparable to the Caspian before it became an environmental health crisis. It’s size as been steadily depleted since the 1960’s from mainly Russian Irrigation projects in Central Asia- in creating one of the largest cotton markets in the world. In the early 19th Century the Aral Sea was home to thriving fishing communities and cultures of Central Asia. Now it is the stem of socio-economic and health problems in the area. The pollutants in the sea have become health hazards and the high salinity has depleted fish leading to many fishermen losing their jobs. This has also led to lost of local culture.
It pains me to see such a beautiful natural occurrence become what it is today. I hope the ASBP (Aral Sea BAsin Project) and the five countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan will be able to help revive the sea despite the tempting oil/gas fields that lay in the area. The Aral Sea crisis is a good example of globalisation gone wrong and poor management and disregard of the long term environmental issues in my opinion. I could go into detail, but I’m afraid I do not have enough knowledge yet on the Soviet/Central Asia relations and independence of states/countries in the area…
If you are interested in the culture that thrived around these areas prior to the disaster I suggest reading the manga ”Otoyomegatari” by Kaoru Mori. It focuses on the lifestyle of the nomadic people and traditional patrilocal cultures, whilst also observing the areas contact with the Western world and the Russians.