Monday, September 27, 2010


Aral Sea 'one of the planet's worst environmental disasters'
Source :

The Aral Sea, once the world's fourth-largest lake, is one of the planet's most shocking environmental disasters, according to the UN Secretary General.

The sea which has shrunk by 90 per cent has ruined the once-robust fishing economy and left fishing trawlers stranded in sandy wasterlands. The sea shrank largely due to a Soviet project to boost cottong production in the arid region.

Its evaporation has left layers of highly salted sand, which winds can carry as far away as Scandinavia and Japan, and which plague local people with health troubles.

Ban Ki-Moon toured the sea by helicopter as part of a visit to the five countries of former Soviet Central Asia. His trip included a touchdown in Muynak, Uzbekistan, a town once on the shore where a pier stretches eerily over gray desert and camels stand near the hulks of stranded ships.

"On the pier, I wasn't seeing anything, I could see only a graveyard of ships," he said after arriving in the city of Nukus, the capital of the autonomous Karakalpak region.

"It is clearly one of the worst disasters, environmental disasters of the world. I was so shocked," he said.

The Aral Sea catastrophe is one of Ban's top concerns on his six-day trip through the region and he is calling on the countries' leaders to set aside rivalries to cooperate on repairing some of the damage.

"I urge all the leaders ... to sit down together and try to find the solutions," he said, promising United Nations support.

However, cooperation is hampered by disagreements over who has rights to scarce water and how it should be used.

In a presentation to Ban before his flyover, Uzbek officials complained that dam projects in Tajikistan will severely reduce the amount of water flowing into Uzbekistan. Impoverished Tajikistan sees the hydroelectric projects as potential key revenue earners.

Competition for water could become increasingly heated as global warming and rising populations further reduce the amount of water available per capita.


The disappearance of the Aral Sea has ruined the local fishing economy in the the area and destroyed the lives of locals.

The United Nations has called it one of the planet’s most shocking environmental disasters. Just take a look at this…

What happened?
The question can be answered in one word: cotton!

The sea disappeared mainly because of the enormous water demand from cotton production in the area. To produce 1 cotton T-shirt requires about 2,700 liters of water to grow and process the cotton.

To make things worse, the area is plaqued by another side effect of cotton production: the heavy use of pesticides. In fact, more chemical pesticides are used for cotton than for any other crop.

Pesticides in cotton production
In the cotton fields around the Aral Sea, 85% of the population suffer from poor health because of cotton pesticides.

When interviewed in 2006, a rural Uzbek put it like this: “When I was little, people used to tell me about a strange disease called ‘chicken eye’ which attacks people while they work in the cotton fields. They said when you catch it, everything in front of your eyes becomes white until eventually you temporarily lose all vision (…) Years later someone explained that these symptoms were the effects of the pesticides applied to cotton”

The clothes we wear
Do you know where the cotton in your T-shirt came from, or your shirt, or your socks, or … ? (We have no idea where ours came from). It might be from Uzbekistan’s Aral Sea cotton fields (Uzbekistan is one of the world’s largest exporters of cotton).

But we DO know that organic cotton, produced with respect for local water resources, and without pesticides, exists.

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