sweet salt of emptiness

Aleksandra Bardas

2018 - Ongoing

The project “In the desert of the Aral Sea” is dedicated to the ecological disaster of the Aral Sea, the dehydration of which has a great impact on the daily life and culture of people in this region. The Aral Sea lies on the territory between Kazakhstan and the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, which is part of Uzbekistan.

According to the European Radio Liberty, a three-day storm struck the Karakalpakstan and Khorezm regions of Uzbekistan, which began on May 26, 2018. Salt, the dried-up parts of the Aral Sea, covered with a white layer farm fields and fruit trees, which destroyed many agricultures not only in Muinak which is 100 km from the Aral Sea, Nukus also covered the capital of Karakalpakstan which is 300 km from the current Aral Sea . The storm also led to the cancellation of flights at the airport of Urgench, created a danger on the roads and caused breathing difficulties for many people. The storm reached a speed of more than 72 km / h. Temirbek Bobo, 80 years old, told the Uzbek service of Radio Liberty that he had encountered such a heavy storm for the first time.

“I saw the wind bringing sand before, but it was the first time I saw salt dripping from the sky. This event can be called a disaster, ”said Bobo, who lives in the Takhiatash district of Karakalpakstan. "All day, except for the salty rain, nothing was visible, not even the sun." He added: “Nature has begun to avenge us for what we have done with the Aral Sea.”

In Soviet times, all countries had to fulfill an economic plan. Uzbekistan had to grow cotton in very large quantities. For irrigation of fields, the water of the Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers, which flowed into the Aral Sea, was used. Less and less water reached the Aral Sea. It began to dehydrate, which also caused other problems. Drying in the desert turned over 100 degrees, there was no drinking water left. All fish factories were closed. while in 1960, fishing reached 40,000 tons, in the mid-80s only 2 tons. Local fisheries simply ceased to exist and more than 60,000 jobs were lost. The most common type of fish was Black Sea flounder, in the 1970s it was adapted to life in salt water and therefore was introduced here. But in 2003 she disappeared from the Aral Sea. Many fishermen were left without work. People were forced to leave their homes and look for a new place of residence in order to find a job and manage to feed their families. Today there is not a single species of fish in the sea, only Artemy plankton. Pesticides used for irrigation of fields got into the groundwater.

Since the 1970s, the number of gastrointestinal diseases has increased dramatically. This spreads typhoid, paratyphoid, hepatitis and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (Doctors without borders). Infant mortality is 24.1 deaths per 1000 people before the first year of life (WTO). So this contributes to the low level of quality of breast milk.

Once upon a time on the Aral Sea coast, the surf was noisy, and seagulls were heard.

Sitting on the shore, you could watch the ships coming and going. Then the people did not know that they would make an irreparable mistake. Today, the coast has become hundreds of kilometers away, turning the seabed into the salty desert of Aralkum, strewn with white shells, resembling a bygone sea. This story is not only about the disappearance of the Aral Sea, but also about people whose lives are being tested every day and are being depleted even today.

Empty sandy depleted soil - a metaphor. It is a reflection of the state of the human soul of the entire population of the region, which has lost not only its culture, but also the source of life - water. Salt reminds us of the unquenchable pain and repentance. All that remains, looking at these spaces, is the memories and hope that the new generation will be able to change something for the better. I suggest you walk with me along the bottom of the Aral Sea to feel the atmosphere of emptiness, salt in the air and the sufferings of nature.

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  • The river Amudarya, which used to flow in Aralsee, ends today 300 km away from Lake Aral. Nukus 2018.

  • Remains of the dry Aral Sea in Muinak. It used to be a spa surrounded by water. Today there is only a small pond here. Nevertheless, the locals come here in summer, sit in salt and believe in their medicinal properties. Muinak 2018.

  • Grocery and the store for charging from mobile account in Muinak. 2018.

  • A Rusian family of pilots have lost their jobs. After the desiccation of the Aral Sea, the large airport in Muinak, which had the connection to Moscow, was closed. The pilots built their own garage in the yard and occasionally earn the money. Muinak 2018.

  • Russian family by breakfast. There are 3 daughters in the family. The smallest is still going to school in Muinak, the other 2 have moved to the capital Tashkent to find better job opportunities. Young generation do not see any future in this area and do not want to stay there any longer. Muinak 2018.

  • The Nukus Capital of the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan is 300 km from the shores of the Aral Sea. The desertification also reaches Nukus. The soil is dry, the population has water problems. The wells without water have no function, but are still built by tradition. In the past, parks with trees and fountains were a rescue from the heat. Nukus 2018.

  • Sudochje lake near the Aral Sea. In the sixties, fishing was about 60,000 tons, in the early eighties it was only 8,000 tons. Today there are no more fish in the Aral Sea. All fish factories were closed. The fishermen have lost their jobs. Sudochje lake 2018.

  • Tourist camp on the banks of the Aral Sea. In the middle of the desert. Surrounded by emptiness. The family running the camp, married couple and 2 children live in isolation, as this is currently the only way to earn money. In the tourist seasons you get many foreign visitors. And the children are always happy about visitors. But in winter they stay alone again. Aral Sea 2018.

  • Sudochje lake near to Aral Sea.There used to be a fishery here, but today no one lives here except a few fishermen. There was nothing left of the factory. Sudochje lake 2018.

  • The house of the family that lives on the shores of the Aral Sea.At the Aral Sea you can not survive without drinking water and food. The family has to take care of everything every week. The nearest shopping center is 100 km away. Aral Sea 2018.

  • Yurts are traditionally karakalpakish. In winter they protect against cold, in summer against heat. Yurts are the only possible construction to live on the shores of the Aral Sea. As the water in the Aral Sea is 100 meters away each year, you can bring the yurts closer to the coast.

  • Rusty ships in Muynak are now where once the Aral Sea began. Today you can only see the desert, which continues beyond the horizon. Today's shore is located over 100km from here. Muinak 2018.

  • The dried-up shores of the Aral Sea stretch like carpets through the area. For several miles you can observe the same landscape. Aral Sea 2018.

  • On the dried-up shore of the Aral Sea you will not only find salt, but also pesticides that whirl with the storms in the air. This is the reason of tuberculosis and lung problems of many people in this region. aral Sea 2018.