The Aral Sea

The Aral Sea
The Aral Sea Basin
Covers 5 of the old
Soviet states, the
Stans in the south
eastern corner of the
Soviet Union
Once the 4th largest
inland body of water in
the world.
In the past few years
the Aral Sea has
gained global attention
as one of the greatest
disasters in the world.
Two major rivers runs into the Aral Sea, the Syr Darya and Amu
Darya. The Aral Sea like the Caspian Sea has no outlet. Water
runs into the sea and some evaporates, naturally causing saline
waters, particularly in dry years
Prior to 1960
• Lake brackish app. 10 g/l
• Mainly freshwater fish adapted to saline
• Supported major fishing industry
• Key regional transportation route
• Supported irrigation, husbandry, reed
production, fishing, trapping and hunting
• River deltas support diverse flora and fauna
Irrigation tradition
• Practiced for several millennia, some say
it started 6,000 years ago
• In 1900 3 mio hectares under irrigation
• By 1960 4.5 mio under irrigation
• However irrigation prior to 1960 did not
measurable reduce inflow to the Aral Sea
• It is the explosion since then to 7.6 mio in
1990 which have caused the damage.
• South of Amu Darya
delta lies an area 28.000
sq km used for the
production of rice and
• Production started here
in 1918.
• The Soviet Union wanted
to be self sufficient with
• Price of cotton was high
after WWWI.
• By 1938 they could
export cotton.
The 850 mile Kara Kum
Canal was opened in 1954
and bought prosperity to
the desert region of Kara
The Kara Kum Canal
Water and Land use
Courtesy The Aral Sea Homepage
Note the 1960 and 1990 shoreline
What happens when you
practice agricultural Suicide?
Only a trickle of water has reached the
lake since 1995
• In the late 1980s
salinity reached
• A huge salt storm
is brewing in the
upper left corner
• Aral region
pesticides have
even been found
in Antarctic
• Salt and pesticide
chemicals have
seeped into
• 60.000 people
abandoned their
fishing livelihood- as
commercial fishing
ceased in 1982
• 500 species of birds,
200 species of
mammals, and 100
species of fish have
Many fields have been poisoned by salt rising
from waterlogged subsoil, encrusting young
plants – increased salinity = higher water use.
Dust Everywhere
Airborne salt
and dust causes
respiratory and
eye problems
and possibly
throat and
other cancers
Liver and kidney
Over 100 million tons of dust a year.
Poor quality drinking water is causing
cholera, typhus and gastritis
Hospitalization rates increased from 20 to 25%
between 1980 and 1987
Mortality rates have increased by 15 times over 10 years
The infant mortality rate is the highest in the
former Soviet Union by a factor of 3-4
Climatic Consequences:
• Increased continentality (inland climate)
• Increase in salt and dust storms
• Shortening of the vegetation period
Ecological/Economic Consequences:
• Degeneration of the delta ecosystem
• Total collapse of the fishing industry
• Decrease of productivity of agricultural fields
Health Consequences:
• Increase of serious decease (e.g. cholera, typhus,
gastritis, cancer)
• Increase of respiratory system deceases (e.g. asthma,
• Birth defects and high infant mortality
What have been done
• World Bank main player, spend more than
US$0.5 bil to try and
• Stabilize the Aral Sea level
• Rehabilitate the region
• Improve its water management
• In 2004 it was concluded to give up on the
largely dead Big Sea and try to salvage the
Small Sea
• Also UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP, and scores of
national gov. programs and NGOs
Can the Aral Sea disaster be reversed?
• The Aral sea has received no shortage of attention in
the past decade. Although measures have been
taken on a limited scale to address the
environmental and health problems in the basin, no
conclusive or all-encompassing program has yet
made satisfactory progress.
• In the mean time the Sea continues to dry up,
drinking water remains contaminated, and crops
yield less and less while pollution increases.
• Whether their will be an Aral Sea in 2010 remains a
debatable question, and whether the proposed and
approved programs make good their plans to assist
the suffering people of the basin remains to be seen.
• Up until 1991 central Soviet decisions
• Since 1992 agreements between seven
independent countries (also Afghanistan
and Iran))
• Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – irrigation
• Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - hydropower
• Conflict of interest: summer or winter flow
• Hydro-solidarity
• Involvement of international organizations
• Inadequate water for competing economic
• More than half the water used in irrigation is
wasted due to inefficiency in delivery and
application (37% before it reaches the field
and 21% in field losses)
• Therefore water governance an issue – water
user associations and intergovernmental and
stakeholder cooperation
The Green Revolution
Why “The Green Revolution”?
• Late 1940s - India and Pakistan gained
Independence from England
• The World’s worst recorded food disaster occurred in
1943 in British-ruled India. Known as the Bengal
Famine, an estimated 4 million people died of hunger
that year in eastern India.
• When India and Pakistan gained Independence, it
was natural that food security was one of the main
items on the agenda.
Two responses to the food crises
• 1. Indigenous responses
• Rooted in the Independence Movement
• Aimed at strengthening the ecological base of
agriculture and the self-reliance of the peasants
of the country
• This was the policy encouraged by Mahatma
Gandhi the leader of the independent movement;
• Repairing nature’s cycle and working in
partnership with nature’s processes was central
to the indigenous approach
• A bottom up approach
1. Indigenous responses
• But while
scientist and
worked on
2. Exogenous responses
• another vision of
developed in the US
• Alarmed by growing
peasant unrest in
new countries in Asia
• Korea, Malaysia, etc
• Did not want other
countries to go the
way of China
The exogenous vision
• It was not based on:
• cooperation with but on the conquest of
• self-reliance of developing countries but on
dependence of developed countries
• diversity but uniformity (a few super
2. Exogenous responses
Green revolution based on
• Introduction of a few ‘dwarf’ high yielding
• Intensive large scale agriculture based on
• High level of capital input in irrigation, chemicals,
fertilizer and machinery
• Intensification of credit to purchase this input
• Rice was introduced into Punjab and
Hyderabad, not a traditional crop in this arid
• Favoring larger farmers
2. Exogenous responses
• Advisors and experts came from the US to
shift India’s agricultural research and policy
from and indigenous to an exogenous
• Finding support in sections of the elite as
they stood to gain from this approach, it
suited their political interests and priorities
• Driven by
• Private organizations (the Ford and Rockefeller
• The US Government
• The World Bank
2. Exogenous responses
• The Field Director of Rockefeller Foundation
became head of Indian Agricultural Research
and together with US-AID financed training of
more than 2.000 Indian farmers in the US
• The World Bank provided credit to introduce a
capital intensive agricultural model in India
• US-AID and World Bank also inserted pressure
for favorable conditions for foreign investment
in India’s fertilizer industry, import liberalization
and elimination of domestic control
2. Exogenous responses
• Main support in India came from the Agricultural
minister who was trained by one of the inventors of
the G.R. and the young scientists trained in the US
• Opposition from Planning Commission , Economists,
State Governments and Agricultural Scientists
• Fear of the social, economic and environmental impact
as well as dependence on overseas input
• The 1966 drought caused severe drop in food
production in India
• Lyndon Johnson conditioned food support to India on
signing an agreement to adopt the Green Revolution
• India signed in 1967
The Miracle Rice and Wheat
• The new genetically modified rice and wheat
varieties responded well to fertilizers and
• Increased water consumption for agriculture
in India by 3 times
* From groundwater aquifers
* Surface water from dams/canal systems
• The new varieties were dwarf varieties, with
less output of straw, which in the indigenous
production system was used to feed their
cattle, and return producing milk and
fertilizer, fuel and building material
The Miracle Rice and Wheat
• Plants that were displaced by the new
monoculture are pulses and oilseeds,
crucial to the nutrient needs of people
and the soil
• The Miracle Seeds are not selfregenerating, so farmers can’t keep
some of his grain for next season, but
have to buy seeds
• Not ‘high yielding’ but ‘high responsive’
• Traditional crop rotation with fallow periods
• Added nutrients
• Controlled weeds and pests
• mono-cropping – one of the responses to
increased population
• Continued cropping
• Developed seeds
• High input of fertilizer, pesticides, machinery and
• Single high yielding varieties
• Loss of Agro biodiversity
• Green revolution prime example
Example of Mono-cropping
Monocropping of
host plant
with minimum
fallow periods
cultivation of
host plant
with long
fallow period
So The Green Revolution
was introduced in Punjab in
North Western India
Punjab has an ancient
irrigation history
In the 8th century the rulers
differentiated between
irrigated and non-irrigated
land for levying taxes
A network of inundation
canals irrigated millions of
This did not cause water
logging and salinization - only
active 4-5 months of the year.
Aligned along natural drainage
features, not interfering with
natural run off
Many projects had several
large canals and dams all
following these guidelines
By the middle of the 20th
century 31 large canal systems
In 1974 new major dams were
build as part of the Indus
River Irrigation Scheme
Increase in tubewells
Increase in tubewells and open
Hydrograph of Junagadh
In the Southwest of
Punjabi groundwater is
saline. But still
1. Farmers demand more
water to leach the salt
out of the ground
despite water logging
2. Dropping water tables
risk infusion of saline
water from neighboring
Depleting groundwater aquifers
The combination of large dams for surface irrigation, increased
use of tubewells, and the high water demands for The Green
Revolution varieties has led to major ecological impacts
Economic Impacts:
High input costs: fertilizers, pesticides,
High capital investment for the farmer
High capital investment for the infrastructure
Social Impact:
Increased rural debt, rural unemployment and
suicide rates
Political Impact:
Civil unrest, at least 15.000 people have been
killed in violent conflicts
• Loss of fertility
• Plants need more than
NPK fertility also
micronutrients, the use
of HYV has depleted
the soil of these
• With organic manure
this does not happen
because it contains
these trace elements
NPK fertilizer does not
Social Impact of the Green Revolution
Local skills and labour are lost
Local economies destroyed
Mutual help is replaced by competition
The richer get richer and the poor gets
Farmers become indebted
Producing for export drives local prices up
Knowledge is lost
The diet of the poor suffers because
monoculture replaces the diversity