Archive

  • The Lovely Sea

    In the 1960s, the syr darya and the amu darya rivers were diverted by the soviets to irrigate cotton plantations, depriving the aral sea of its two main tributaries, subsequently shrinking what was once one of the four largest lakes in the world. Water quickly turned to sand and what remained of the aral was turned into a hyper-salinized pool of agricultural pesticides, killing off most remaining fish and surrounding wildlife as well. Health problems and unemployment pushed droves of people into neighboring cities and towns. In 2001, the world bank together with the kazakh government responded with the thirteen kilometer dike kokaral, an $86 million project, designed to raise the water level of the northern aral sea by containing flow into the severely diminished south. Extirpated species of fish were reintroduced back, and a danish ngo donated fishing nets to local villagers. Tactubek, a historic fishing village is beginning to come back to life with many families moving returning. Aralsk, once, a strategic port town, at the northern tip of the aral sea, thrived on the trading of commodities between russia and central asia at large. Although the dam has brought the shoreline to within 25 kilometers from what was once the aralsk harbor, one would never know it. Camels graze around a pool of water crested with brown foam and ringed with garbage. From here the sea seems far from returned. Though brides still ride around in wedding cars in this traditional marriage town, there is something about aralsk that has died. It is a beach town with no sea, a surreal endless expanse of sand. Women push their baby carriages through mounds of white grain sand; abandoned boats dot the harbor, half-submerged in shallow ponds. One can’t help but wonder how aralsk will respond when and if the sea actually does return. More than a generation has grown up here in the arid desert; they have never known life on the water.

  • Two Russian boys on the train to Aralsk from Kyzlorda.
  • A young boy plays on an abandoned boat in the dried up Aralsk Harbor.
  • The Northern Aral Sea seen from the shores of Tastubek
  • Myriam praying at dawn in the boat cemetery of the dried up part of the Norther Aral Sea, just south of Aralsk.
  • An abandoned boat lies in the baot cemetary of the dried up part of the Northern Aral Sea, just south of Aralsk.
  • A young girl swiming in the Northern Aral Sea off of the shores of Tastubek.
  • A cemetary on what used to be the shore of the Aral Sea in the town of Aralsk.
  • An abandoned boat in the Aralsk Harbor.
  • Camels wander through the desert of the dried up part of the Norther Aral Sea, just south of Aralsk.
  • A young girl mimicks her mother with a baby doll in her home in Aralsk. Children grow up fast and are given adult responsibilities like taking care of their siblings and helping to clean the house.
  • Myriam in her home.
  • A woman heads to a wedding during the busiest wedding month of the year in the town of Aralsk.
  • A young fisherman in Tastubek makes a fire in order to cook dinner. Some parts of the Norther Aral Sea are returning and so are the fish.
  • A dam known as the Dike Kokaral, built with the help of the World Bank, indended to help the Aral Sea return to the North by diverting the Syr Daria and Amu Darya rivers back into the sea.
  • A man fixes his truck in Tastubek, the only type of vehicle that can get around those parts across an endless expance of sand.
  • Myriam's daugter in their home who has various health problems which Myriam atributes to the environmental hazards of the drying up of the Aral Sea.
  • Outside of a wedding hall in the town of Aralsk along the Northern tip of what was once the Aral Sea.
  • A dead fish lays in the sea bed of the Aral Sea in Tastubek.
  • A political poster in a residential neighborhood in the town of Aralsk.
  • Young boys dive and swim in the Syr Darya river on the border with Uzbekistan.
  • A young boy plays on a broken motorcycle at a house in the fishing village of Tastubek, along the Aral Sea.
  • Women eat in the kitchen at a house in the fishing village of Tastubek, along the Aral Sea.
  • The Aral Sea just adjacent to a dam known as the Dike Kokaral, built with the help of the World Bank, indended to help the Aral Sea return to the North by diverting the Syr Daria and Amu Darya rivers back into the sea.
  • A young fisherman at home takes a break to watch some television.
  • A truck hauls hay in the fields along the Syr Drya river in Myzerkent.
  • Men fish on the Southern side of a dam built with the help of the World Bank, indended to help the Aral Sea return to the North by diverting the Syr Daria and Amu Darya rivers back into the sea.
  • A fisherman on the Aral Sea in Tastubek at dusk. Some parts of the Norther Aral Sea are returning and so are the fish.
  • A young boy in Tastubek which health problems at home, watching other children play outside. His mother is unsure exactly what he has since healthcare in the sparsley populated village is hard to come by.
  • The fish market in Aralsk has begun to sell catch from the Aral Sea, as a dam project has caused the water to return to some parts in the North.