It is extremely unlikely that the dead Aral Sea will ever resume its former glory. The governments of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in particular have tried to recreate lakes and some of the lost water supply. The result has so far been disappointing, but this large body of water was not just about extinct fish and ecology. It also fed the economic needs of local populations and created a health headache when poisonous dust plumed up and circulated far and wide in the atmosphere from the dead sea-bed. The toxins are varied but dioxins were responsible for a host of maternal and child health problems. Fortunately they should have decayed chemically by now. The health problems remain however, as the affected individuals still suffer the consequences. We have been covering the Aral Sea closely and very recently looked at the conferences ecological perspectives.
The Urgench conference last week was very successful, with wise investment in projects that stretched from the essential and expensive health programmes to true ecological afforestations and more examples of local damming for lake creation. The ultimate problem is water supply, as global warming creates even hotter and drier conditions throughout the Aralkum and neighbouring Karalkum desert. How the rivers can be reincarnated to their former flow rates is debateable. The Amu Darya in particular is still diverted too often for the lucrative cotton crop. In the head waters, the luxury of persuading more water to descend is complicated by the needs of neighbouring Tajikistan.
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