UNESCO Aral Sea Basin Initiative (2003)

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Map by Karl Musser
Map by Karl Musser

UNESCO initiated an Aral Sea Basin Initiative in view of the International Year of Freshwater 2003), as "to study the Aral Sea Basin under the auspices of the WWAP". This new study builds upon previous investigations conducted by UN agencies, notably a special UNESCO report analyzing the risks of conflict and potential for cooperation among the basin states- Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Contents

Background

During the Soviet era of collective farming, water was diverted from the two main sources of the Aral Sea - Amu Darya and Syr Darya - to feed cotton farms, primarily in Kazakhstan. This massive and unprecedented withdrawal of water from the sources of the Aral Sea, had catastrophic effects on the Aral Sea. Since the 1960's, a sharp decrease of the Aral Sea level has been observed[1]. By 1990, the Aral Sea level had decreased by 14 m and the water volume had decreased three times[2].

Drying up of the Aral Sea has had severe negative ecological impacts including violent sandstorms, increasing desertification, destruction of vegetative cover and pollution of the drinking water and soil from residual pesticides and fertilizers used in growing the cotton crop. Fishing and navigation have vanished and agricultural yields have drastically decreased.



Role of UNESCO

UNESCO has been working with the concerned countries to study and improve conditions since 1992, through a network of about 20 research projects involving more than 140 scientists from the region. In 1998, UNESCO created the Scientific Advisory Board for Aral Sea Basin Problems to explore options for the future. There have been longstanding plans to divert other rivers in order to restore the Aral Sea. However, such schemes could cause further ecological damage. UNESCO has therefore focused on helping the national governments to manage the basin and coordinate their activities jointly in such key areas as agriculture and hydroelectricity in order to reinforce the fragile health of the entire basin.


MAIN LESSONS


Further Readings - References - Links


Source(s)

Contacts

In Paris
Amy Otchet, Bureau of Public Information, Editorial Section, UNESCO Telephone: +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 05; Email: a.otchet@unesco.org
In Dushanbe
Peter Coles, Bureau of Public Information, Editorial Section, UNESCO, Telephone: +33 6 14 69 54 98; Email: p.coles@unesco.org



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