The Drying of the Aral Sea


Christine Lee


In the 1960s, the Soviet Union undertook a major water diversion project on the dry plains of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. The region’s two major rivers that flowed down from the mountains that formed the fourth largest lake in the world, the Aral Sea, were used to transform the desert into farms. This in cause devastated the Aral Sea. In result, fisheries and the communities that depended on them collapsed. The water became increasingly salty and polluted. In 2005 after a last-dtich effort to save some of the lake by building a dam, the sea was judged to be beyond saving.


This tragedy of the Aral Sea really bring things into scope. While the photo is at first very shocking, the scale of the disaster is incomprehensible unless you really put yourself in the shoes of the people who live there. The communities and countries around the Aral Sea depended on the water because they were landlocked (meaning they are entirely enclosed by land with no direct access to an open sea or ocean). I first came across this news when I was reading a book about the life of a family who lived in the community near the Aral Sea in the early 1900’s. I read about how they got their food and how they lived their lives depending on the sea. The book mentioned nothing about the Aral Sea devastation, so when I looked up information about the sea, I was mind blown. As the speaker had said during the lecture, bringing issues on different scales can really change things. For me, I was only able to comprehend how much of a devastation this large, world-scaled disaster was because I started off small on a simple story of a family who lived near and depended on the Aral Sea.

Source: Earth Observatory


Global Issue: Environmental

Primary Design Lens: Scale

Secondary Design Lens: Environmental

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One Response to The Drying of the Aral Sea

  1. Barbara says:

    Christine, this is exactly the sort of scale issue Jamer was discussing. Let’s talk about this in recitation. Your point that the micro story of a family made the macro devastation graspable is the very point made in the lecture about “conceptual scale.”

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