2018 - Ongoing
The project “Sweet salt of emptiness” is dedicated to the ecological disaster of the Aral Sea whose dehydration has a great impact on the daily life and culture of the people in this region.
In Soviet times, all republics were to fulfill the economic plan. Uzbekistan had to grow cotton in huge quantities. Water of the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya, the rivers which flow into the Aral Sea, was used to irrigate the fields. Less and less water reached the Aral Sea. Its dehydratation began which caused other problems. Drying out in the desert turned over by 100 degrees, drinking water ran out. All fish factories were closed. If in 1960 fishing catch amounted to 40,000 tons, in the mid-80s it decreased to only 2 tons. Local fisheries simply ceased to exist, more than 60,000 jobs were lost. People were forced to leave their homes and look for a new residence in order to find a job and feed their families. Pesticides used for irrigation of fields got into the groundwater.
Since the 1970s the number of gastrointestinal diseases has increased dramatically. Typhoid, paratyphoid, hepatitis and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis spread as well (Doctors without borders). Infant mortality rate equals to 24,1 cases per 1,000 infants during the first year of life (WTO). Low quality of breast milk contributes to this.
Back in the day the Aral Sea coast used to enjoy roaring surfs and listen to shrill calls of seagulls.
Sitting on the shore, one could watch ships coming and going. Then people did not know that they would make a vital error. Today the coastline has moved away for hundreds kilometers, having turned the seabed into the salty desert of Aralkum, strewn with white shells reminding of the gone sea. This story is not only about disappearance of the Aral Sea, but also about people whose lives, continuously depleted, are being tested every day.
Waste, sandy, depleted soil is a metaphor. It reflects the state of human soul of the entire population of the region who have lost not only their culture, but also the source of life, water. Salt reminds us of unsufferable pain and repentance. All what is left looking at these vast spaces, is the memories and hope that the new generation will be able to change something for the better. I invite you to walk with me along the Aral Sea bed to feel the atmosphere of emptiness, salt in the air and sufferings of nature.