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Nature And Economy In The Aral Sea Basin

Kristopher White
Published 2014 · Environmental Science

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The desiccation of the Aral Sea since 1960 has been a notorious and well-documented example of anthropogenic ecological devastation. Equally ominous has been the devastating impact on the livelihoods and health conditions of the human populations inhabiting the Aral Sea region. As a socio-ecological crisis, the Aral Sea’s recession has demonstrated interrelationships between humans and the biophysical environment. An important societal dimension through which to access these relationships is the Aral basin’s regional economy. The Aral crisis itself has largely been a result of the large-scale Soviet-era water diversion projects whose impetus was primarily the production and export of cotton. The Aral Sea Basin today remains a globally important cotton production and export region. The most important economic activities devastated by the crisis have been fishing and fish processing. Once defunct enterprises, these activities have only recently been revived with the recent rehabilitation of the northern Aral Sea in Kazakhstan. This chapter examines the post-1960 developments of the cotton sector within the Aral basin and the fishing sector in the Aral Sea itself. Nature-economy linkages inherent in these sectors inform broader generalizations regarding human-environment interrelationships in the Aral Sea Basin today.
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