Monday, May. 03, 2010

The Aral Sea

In early April 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Central Asia, where he laid eyes upon a "graveyard of ships" — rusting fishing trawlers and other vessels stranded in a desert that stretched for miles in all directions. It was the Aral Sea ... or what used to be the Aral Sea. Situated between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the Aral was once the fourth largest lake on earth, as big as Ireland. Since the 1960s, however, when Soviet irrigation projects diverted several of its source waterways, the Aral has shrunk 90%. What was once a vibrant, fish-stocked lake is now a massive desert that produces salt and sandstorms that kill plant life and have negative effects on human and animal health for hundreds of miles around. Scores of large boats sit tilted in the sand — a tableau both sad and surreal.