Turkmenistan Plans to Revive Aral Sea Coast

Turkmenistan has developed a plan to combat desertification and revive the Aral Sea coastal areas, according to Turkmenistan.ru, a website used by the country's government to disseminate information in Russia.

The project will involve creating a green zone in the Botendag hillside in Dashoguz, the region in northern Turkmenistan closest to the Aral Sea, and in areas adjacent to the sea and will be implemented jointly with the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, Minister of Water Resources Annageldi Yazmyradov said.

Part of the plan is to plant drought-resistant deciduous trees and Haloxylon shrubs in a 20,000-hectare area, the minister said. The government hopes the measures will help protect the region from strong winds blowing across the dried-up bed of the Aral Sea, and to combat desertification and soil salinization, Yazmyradov said.

The project was the brainchild of Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, who first floated the idea at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, the website said. Berdimuhamedov has said that tens of millions of dollars will be spent on improving the ecological situation in the areas adjacent to the Aral Sea.

The Aral Sea, which is located in the heart of the Central Asian desert, was once one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square kilometers. The Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted for irrigation purposes.

By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into four lakes – the North Aral Sea, the eastern and western basins of the once far larger South Aral Sea and one smaller lake between the North and South Aral Seas.

Ecologists have described the shrinking of the Aral Sea as "one of the planet's worst environmental disasters." The region's once prosperous fishing industry has been essentially destroyed, bringing unemployment and economic hardship.