Once upon a time, the Aral Sea was the fourth largest lake in the world with an area of 68,000 km2, located between Uzbekistan to its north and Kazakhstan to its south. The Aral Sea means "Sea of Islands", a reference to the large number of islands, over 1,100, that once dotted its waters.
Following the near disappearance of the Aral Sea, Marketa describes what life is like in the region after one of mankind’s biggest environmental disasters. She discusses if it is possible to fish or to swim in what is left of the Sea. More broadly, she discusses if there is any future for the Aral Sea and any way of reversing its environmental disasters, and some other interesting discoveries she made in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan.
The Aral Sea began shrinking in the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet Union irrigation projects. Unfortunately, the obsession with the “white gold” (cotton) carried on after the declaration of Uzbekistan’s independence in 1991. As a result, the Aral Sea largely dried up by the 2010s.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, following his visit to Moynak, a former bustling fishing town with a well-developed fishing industry in 2011, called the shrinking of the Aral Sea "one of the planet's worst environmental disasters”. Today’s Monyak is a ghost town that is about 200 km away from the remnants of the heavily polluted Aral Sea. The situation led to serious public health and social problems and catastrophic damage to the environment.
Dr Marketa Moore was born in the former Czechoslovakia, in today’s Czechia. After studying Chinese studies in Beijing and Charles University in Prague, she came to Hong Kong in 1997 to pursue a PhD in sociology of migration. She now teaches sociology, environmental studies and international relations at The University of Hong Kong, City University and the Chinese University. She has widely travelled to countries including to North Korea, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
Marketa’s interest in the fate of the Aral Sea goes back to 1988, when, during her studies in Beijing, she met students from the former Soviet Union from Uzbekistan and heard of their distress about the “disappearing” Aral Sea. She decided to travel to Uzbekistan and explore the situation for herself.
Members of the RGS, their guests and others are most welcome to attend this event, which is HK$200 for RGS Members and HK$250 for guests and others. Including complimentary free-flow drinks.
The Royal Geographical Society - Hong Kong wishes to express its thanks to
Capital Group as the Venue Sponsor of this talk.