It would be more correct to call the Aral Sea a lake, since it has no outlet to the World Ocean and is endless. Back in the middle of the last century, it was the fourth largest lake on our planet, with an area of 68, 000 square kilometers. According to the latest data, the Aral Sea covers an area of just over 8, 000 square kilometers and is on the verge of complete extinction. What caused the disaster? It turns out that the vigorous activity of man is the king of nature.
At the beginning of the 18th century, Peter the Great was fired up with the idea of connecting the Caspian and Aral Seas with a canal, so that it would be possible to freely deliver goods from St. Petersburg to Bukhara by water. Well, there is already a stone's throw to India. True, the idea at that time did not become a reality; there were no technical possibilities to implement such a grandiose project.
But in Soviet times, they returned to this plan. Moreover, at the end of the twenties, the Bassaga-Kerkinsky canal was successfully built deep into the southeastern Karakum, the length of which was 100 kilometers. And in 1932, work began on a project according to which the Amu Darya channel should be diverted to the shores of the Caspian Sea for irrigation of desert lands.
According to the plan, it was assumed that annually tens of cubic kilometers of water would be taken through this canal, while, according to experts, no harm would be caused to the Aral Sea. And it was planned to install three more power plants on the canal in order to provide the south of the country with electricity. Another plus of the future canal is the navigable route between the two seas.
The bold project of Soviet scientists required large funds, and the industrialization process was proceeding at an accelerated pace in the country, therefore, it was decided to postpone the construction of the canal for several years, but the Great Patriotic War soon began, and plans to transform the desert were forgotten until the early fifties.
The decision to resume work on the construction of the main Turkmen canal was made in the fall of 1950 by the Council of Ministers of the USSR. On the banks of the Amu Darya River, near Urgench, the village of Takhitash, where the builders of the canal lived, grew before our eyes. Two years later, a railway was laid to Takhitash, and the settlement itself received the status of a city. Of the 10, 000 builders, about half were prisoners. Perhaps the canal would have been built, but Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin died in March 1953, after which the work was stopped, as the project was considered too expensive.
The plan was changed after a year. Now the construction of the Karakum Canal has begun. Its length was supposed to be 1400 kilometers: from the Amu Darya through the Karakum to the foothills of the Kopetdag. The Karakum Canal was built in several stages, in 1962 a new channel was led to Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. The canal took up to 45% of the water from the Amu Darya. Now it was required in huge quantities for the irrigation of cotton and rice fields.
And almost the entire inflow of water into the Aral Sea was provided by two rivers - the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. Rains and underground springs could no longer maintain the water level in the Aral at the same level, therefore, the sea began to shrink before our eyes, and the salinity of the water increased. After the final completion of the construction of the canal in 1988, the area of the Aral Sea has been halved.
The drying up of the sea was disastrous. Due to a sharp increase in the salinity of water and a reduction in the food supply, many species of fish simply could not exist here and disappeared. Already in the mid-eighties, commercial fishing in the Aral Sea simply ceased to exist, although for many years local fish farms supplied fish throughout the country.
Now on the sand, far from the water, you can see the remains of ships. The former ports of the Aral Sea (Aralsk, Muynak and Kazakhdarya) have long been land settlements. It is impossible even to assume that not so long ago they were on the sea coast. In 1989, the Aral Sea split into two reservoirs, isolated from each other. This is the North and South Aral Sea. Or, as they are also called, Small and Big Aral.
Can the Aral Sea be saved? Scientists argue that the chances of its revival are minimal. The process has gone too far, therefore, it will most likely not be possible to restore it within the boundaries of the mid-twentieth century. This will require tremendous efforts, including financial ones.
Scientists are particularly concerned about the former Renaissance Island, where a biochemical test site operated in the second half of the twentieth century. Despite the fact that it was closed in the first half of the nineties, studies show that the bacteria have not completely died and are dangerous, despite disinfection. And at the beginning of the XXI century, the island practically merged with the mainland and it can already be called a peninsula.