UN Secretary General Visits the Aral Sea

04 Apr 2010, by Kim in Uncategorized

I’m not sure if it is me or the news, but as we move closer to launch day, the political, environmental and economic issues surrounding the areas we’ll visit are becoming more prevalent to me.  The reality of this being much, much more than just another fun trip (which has always been the aim) is finally coming into real focus.  And so I was very intrigued to hear that the U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, just spent six days touring Central Asia specifically to address the environmental and subsequent human rights catastrophe ensuing there.

The Secretary General called the drying up of Uzbekistan’s Aral Sea one of the planet’s most shocking environmental disasters.  Once the world’s fourth largest lake, the Aral Sea has unbelievably lost 90% of its water in just a few short years.  Our team has long incorporated this destination in our route planning as we hope to document and spread the word about this horrible and completely man-made loss.  What used to be thriving ports and fishing villages are now ghost towns with shipyard cemeteries and piers that jut out into dusty emptiness.  How?  The answer is painfully simple.  Soviet water diversion and irrigation projects to grow cotton has literally drained the Sea dry in less than a generation.

The Secretary-General is hoping to convince Central Asian leaders to set aside their differences and work together to stop further water loss and to prevent other such environmental horrors.  But the fight over water rights for farming and hydro-electric dams mixed in with a multitude of human rights issues are proving to be extremely challenging obstacles.  If the cooperation of leadership fails, this could be our only opportunity to view what’s left of the Aral Sea before it disappears forever.

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