Planet’s Worst Environmental Disasters – Collapse of Aral Sea and Transformation to Dry Salty Desert

Mismanagement of freshwater resources is still taking place around the world though previous disasters that is worthwhile to learn from. The overuse of water resources is currently a major global problem and the outcome from such overuse wouldn’t be different than what happened to Aral Sea. Water management policies should be based on appropriate “Environmental Consequence Analysis” with consideration to large-scale and long-term impacts and not on short-term economic interests only.

The story of the Aral Sea is one of such lessons. In 1950’s the water of the Aral Sea were largely untouched with two rivers replenishing the sea. The Soviet Union that managed the region at that time did major water projects with the goal of boasting the economy by converting land-use from pasture to cotton fields. Along with farming and other industries considerable amounts of water were consumed from the rivers, the water feeding the sea became so scarce and gradually evaporated away.

The vanishing of the Aral Sea and the associated transformation the landscape to huge desert and salty areas is “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters”. The Aral sea-region once prosperous fishing industry with natural land that could otherwise be used for many other purposes has been essentially destroyed, bringing unemployment and economic hardship. Such destruction brought severe environmental degradation and heavily pollution with consequent serious public health problems. The blown up sand, dust and salt caused large-scale degradation of soil fertility. In addition to these impacts, the retreat of the sea has also caused local climate change, with summers becoming hotter and drier, and winters colder and longer. Local citizens can tell about the damage brought about by short-term policies without consideration to the existing population. The local population was faced with lack of future, increasing unemployment for young people and no work for decades.

The people there have already begun to reverse the drain and restore the Aral Sea “Back From The Brink” through loans from the World Bank. Dried up wells started to be replenished and life started to be better (

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