Contemporary Issues in the Aral Sea Basin: Considering Kyrgyzstan

Contemporary Issues in the Aral Sea Basin: Considering Kyrgyzstan

November 14, 2012

November 14, 2012

Dr. Kristopher D. White, KIMEP, Kazakhstan

Abstract: The Aral Sea crisis has been a notorious and well-documented anthropogenic ecological disaster. Since 1960, the Aral’s recession and desiccation has led to habitat losses for many species of flora and fauna, widespread regional salinization, increased frequency of dust storms, and significant shifts in the regional climate. In another sense, the Aral Sea crisis might also be termed an anthropogenic human crisis. Human populations around the Aral Sea have suffered from the collapse of the fishing industry and a barrage of health problems stemming from the overall ecological destruction and regional concentrations of remnant agricultural chemical compounds. The Aral situation is a classic and vivid case where interrelationships between humans and the biophysical environment are clear. Human modification of the Aral basin environment included construction of artificial hydrologic infrastructure (dams, irrigation canals) facilitating river water withdrawals that soon became unsustainable. Much more recently, human intervention has again resulted in artificial infrastructure (a dam, dyke, spillway, and river rechanneling) though these modifications were designed to restore ecological integrity in part of the Aral Sea. This presentation will focus on contemporary developments on the Aral Sea, incorporating the author’s photographs and observations from a September, 2011 expedition. In a meta-ecosystem sense, a regional, basin-wide view of the Aral Sea crisis necessitates inclusion of Kyrgyzstan’s Naryn and Karadarya river basins. The presentation concluded an analysis of contemporary issues in Kyrgyzstan’s basin regions as they relate to the present and future condition of the Aral Sea.

Bio: Kristopher (Ph.D. 2002, University of Connecticut, USA) is an economic geographer and Associate Professor at KIMEP University in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Since coming to Central Asia nearly a decade ago, initial curiosity has been transformed into a research focus investigating human geography and human-environment interrelationships across the region. Most recently, the Aral Sea, Aral Sea crisis, regional economies of the Aral Sea basin, and regional nature-society linkages have formed the foundation for research activities. Diverse physical and cultural landscapes spanning Central Asia have nourished interwoven passions of travel, exploration, observation, and image making.

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