Silent Chernobyl: Dry Aral Sea has made Central Asia dustier, with impacts on global climate, says study- Rajat Ghai

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published Published on Apr 18, 2024   modified Modified on Apr 18, 2024


The Aral Sea, the world’s fourth-largest lake until the early 1960s, dried up after that decade in Soviet Central Asia and became a byword for environmental disaster later, almost on the lines of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Now, a new study has found that the desert which emerged due to the drying up of the lake, has made Central Asia a much dustier place. Not only is the dust more hazardous than normal dust but it will also have impacts on global climate, though more studies are needed to ascertain that.

“The drying up of the Aral Sea has made Central Asia dustier by 7 per cent over the past 30 years. Between 1985 and 2015, dust emissions from the growing desert almost doubled from 14 to 27 million tonnes. This is the result of a study by the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) and Freie Universität Berlin,” noted a statement by TROPOS on April 17, 2024.

It added that the amounts of dust have probably been underestimated so far because two-thirds are stirred up under cloudy skies and therefore go unnoticed by traditional satellite observations.

“The dust not only endangers residents in the region, but also affects air quality in the capitals of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. In addition, it can accelerate the melting of glaciers and thus exacerbate the water crisis in the region,” according to the statement.

The research has been released at the ongoing Second Central Asian DUst Conference (CADUC-2). It began on April 15 in Nukus, Uzbekistan, on the former Aral Sea and will end on April 22, Earth Day.

A Soviet legacy
The Aral was fed by the two great rivers of Central Asia — the Amu Darya (Oxus in Antiquity) and the Syr Darya (Jaxartes) — flowing from the Pamir and Tien Shan mountain ranges of High Asia, respectively.

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Rajat Ghai, DownToEarth, 18th April, 2024,

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