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Moynaq E-mail
Asia - Uzbekistan
24 August 2010

Ayaz Kala

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From Nukus, where we were based for a few days, we made a day trip to Moynaq, a fishing town previously located at the Aral Sea coast, but nowadays 250 km away from the coast. Again through the Kyzylkum desert we drove to Moynaq, to see the infamous sight of fishing boats rusting away in the desert for ourselves. Though some of them are said to have been put there from Aralsk, the site wasn't less warning. It's one of the bigger man-made disasters in history.

Agricultural projects (cotton) by the Soviets in the 1950's and 1960's made the desert flourish inUzbekistan and Turkmenistan, but it resulted in the Amu Darya river being exhausted before it even ended up in the Aral Sea, which nowadays has dried up 80% and is split in half. Salt storms from the now Benelux-sized salt desert torture the towns around it. All the chemicals such as DDT used in abundance in Soviet times that had flown to the Aral Sea, are now blown through the area, causing spectacularly higher respiratory diseases with the population. Remnants of chemicals and heavy metals are not only influencing the locality: they have even been found in Penguins on the South Pole!

We visited a once-flourishing, now closed fish canning factory, rusting away. The city that once had a resort-feel with fresh breezes, is now a ghost town, with mainly old, sick people and crumbling houses.

I can recommend the short movie below on Youtube for a quick and interesting overview.