The ARAL SEA was an endorheic lake lying between
and Kyzylorda Regions ) in the north and
autonomous region) in the south. The name roughly translates as "Sea
of Islands", referring to over 1,100 islands that once dotted its
waters; in the
Turkic languages aral means "island, archipelago". The
Aral Sea drainage basin encompasses
Uzbekistan and parts of
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan,
Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of
68,000 km2 (26,300 sq mi), the
Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking
since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet
irrigation projects. By 1997, it had declined to 10% of its original
size, splitting into four lakes – the
North Aral Sea , the eastern
and western basins of the once far larger
South Aral Sea , and one
smaller lake between the North and South Aral Seas. By 2009, the
southeastern lake had disappeared and the southwestern lake had
retreated to a thin strip at the western edge of the former southern
sea; in subsequent years, occasional water flows have led to the
southeastern lake sometimes being replenished to a small degree.
Satellite images taken by
NASA in August 2014 revealed that for the
first time in modern history the eastern basin of the
Aral Sea had
completely dried up. The eastern basin is now called the Aralkum
In an ongoing effort in
Kazakhstan to save and replenish the North
Aral Sea, a dam project was completed in 2005; in 2008, the water
level in this lake had risen by 12 m (39 ft) compared to 2003.
Salinity has dropped, and fish are again found in sufficient numbers
for some fishing to be viable. The maximum depth of the North Aral
Sea is 42 m (138 ft) (as of 2008 ).
The shrinking of the
Aral Sea has been called "one of the planet's
worst environmental disasters". The region's once-prosperous fishing
industry has been essentially destroyed, bringing unemployment and
economic hardship. The
Aral Sea region is also heavily polluted, with
consequential serious public health problems .
UNESCO added the historical documents concerning the development of
Aral Sea to its Memory of the World Register as a unique resource
to study this "environmental tragedy."
* 1 Formation
* 2 History
* 2.1 Naval history
* 3 Impact on environment, economy, and public health
* 4 Solution
* 4.1 Possible environmental solutions
Aral Sea Basin program
* 4.2.1 ASBP: Phase One
* 4.2.2 ASBP: Phase Two
* 4.2.3 ASBP: Phase Three
North Aral Sea restoration work
* 4.4 Future of
South Aral Sea
* 5 Institutional bodies
* 6 Vozrozhdeniya
* 7 Oil and gas exploration
* 8 Movies
* 9 See also
* 10 References
* 11 Further reading
* 12 External links
Geographer Dr. Nick Middleton believes that the
Amu Darya did not
flow into the shallow depression that now forms the
Aral Sea until the
beginning of the
Holocene , and it is known that the
Amu Darya flowed
Caspian Sea via the
Uzboy channel until the Holocene. The
Syr Darya formed a large lake in the
Kyzyl Kum during the Pliocene
known as the Mynbulak depression.
Most of the area around the
Aral Sea was inhabited by desert nomads
who left few written records. However, the Oxus delta to the south has
a long history under the name of
Khwarezm . It used to be the
westernmost border of
Russian naval presence on the
Aral Sea started in 1847, with the
founding of Raimsk, which was soon renamed Fort
Aralsk , near the
mouth of the Syr Darya. Soon, the
Imperial Russian Navy started
deploying its vessels on the sea. Owing to the
Aral Sea basin not
being connected to other bodies of water, the vessels had to be
Orenburg on the
Ural River , shipped overland to
Aralsk (presumably by a camel caravan ), and then reassembled. The
first two ships, assembled in 1847, were the two-masted schooners
named Nikolai and Mikhail. The former was a warship; the latter was a
merchant vessel meant to serve the establishment of the fisheries on
the great lake. In 1848, these two vessels surveyed the northern part
of the sea. In the same year, a larger warship, the Constantine, was
assembled. Commanded by Lt. Alexey Butakov (Алексей
Бутаков), the Constantine completed the survey of the entire
Aral Sea over the next two years. The exiled Ukrainian poet and
Taras Shevchenko participated in the expedition, and painted a
number of sketches of the
Aral Sea coast.
For the navigation season of 1851, two newly built steamers arrived
from Sweden, again by caravan from Orenburg. As the geological surveys
had found no coal deposits in the area, the Military Governor-General
Vasily Perovsky ordered "as large as possible supply" of
Haloxylon ammodendron , a desert shrub, akin to the creosote
bush ) to be collected in
Aralsk for use by the new steamers.
Unfortunately, saxaul wood did not turn out a very suitable fuel, and
in the later years, the Aral Flotilla was provisioned, at substantial
cost, by coal from the
Donbass . (This was part of the Russian
conquest of Turkestan .)
First Russian boats on the Aral Sea, sketch by
Taras Shevchenko ,
Imperial Russian Navy 's Aral Flotilla in the 1850s
Great Plan for the Transformation of Nature
Play media Satellite images show the changing water levels in the
Aral Sea from 2000 to 2011. Timeline of shrinking Canals
from the Syr-Daria and the Amu Darya.
In the early 1960s, the Soviet government decided the two rivers
that fed the Aral Sea, the
Amu Darya in the south and the
Syr Darya in
the east, would be diverted to irrigate the desert, in an attempt to
grow rice, melons, cereals, and cotton.
This was part of the Soviet plan for cotton , or "white gold", to
become a major export. This temporarily succeeded, and in 1988,
Uzbekistan was the world's largest exporter of cotton.
The construction of irrigation canals began on a large scale in the
1940s. Many of the canals were poorly built, allowing water to leak or
evaporate. From the
Qaraqum Canal , the largest in Central Asia,
perhaps 30 to 75% of the water went to waste. Today, only 12% of
Uzbekistan's irrigation canal length is waterproofed. Of the 47,750 km
of interfarm irrigation channels in the basin, only 28% have
anti-infiltration linings. Only 77% of farm intakes have flow gauges,
and of the 268,500 km of onfarm channels, only 21% have
anti-infiltration linings, which retain on average 15% more water than
By 1960, between 20 and 60 km3 (4.8 and 14.4 cu mi ) of water each
year was going to the land instead of the sea. Most of the sea's water
supply had been diverted, and in the 1960s, the
Aral Sea began to
shrink. From 1961 to 1970, the Aral's level fell at an average of 20
cm (7.9 in) a year; in the 1970s, the average rate nearly tripled to
50–60 cm (20–24 in) per year, and by the 1980s, it continued to
drop, now with a mean of 80–90 cm (31–35 in) each year. The rate
of water use for irrigation continued to increase; the amount of water
taken from the rivers doubled between 1960 and 2000, and cotton
production nearly doubled in the same period.
The disappearance of the lake was no surprise to the Soviets; they
expected it to happen long before. As early as 1964, Aleksandr Asarin
Hydroproject Institute pointed out that the lake was doomed,
explaining, "It was part of the five-year plans , approved by the
council of ministers and the
Politburo . Nobody on a lower level would
dare to say a word contradicting those plans, even if it was the fate
of the Aral Sea."
The reaction to the predictions varied. Some Soviet experts
apparently considered the Aral to be "nature's error", and a Soviet
engineer said in 1968, "it is obvious to everyone that the evaporation
Aral Sea is inevitable." On the other hand, starting in the
1960s, a large-scale project was proposed to redirect part of the flow
of the rivers of the Ob basin to
Central Asia over a gigantic canal
system. Refilling of the
Aral Sea was considered as one of the
project's main goals. However, due to its staggering costs and the
negative public opinion in Russia proper , the federal authorities
abandoned the project by 1986.
From 1960 to 1998, the sea's surface area shrank by about 60%, and
its volume by 80%. In 1960, the
Aral Sea had been the world's
fourth-largest lake, with an area around 68,000 km2 (26,000 sq mi) and
a volume of 1,100 km3 (260 cu mi); by 1998, it had dropped to 28,687
km2 (11,076 sq mi) and eighth largest. The salinity of the Aral Sea
also increased: by 1990 it was around 376 g/l. (By comparison, the
salinity of ordinary seawater is typically around 35 g/l; the Dead Sea
's salinity varies between 300 and 350 g/l.)
In 1987, the continuing shrinkage split the lake into two separate
bodies of water, the
North Aral Sea (the Lesser Sea, or Small Aral
Sea) and the
South Aral Sea (the Greater Sea, or Large Aral Sea). In
Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union. Craig
Murray , a UK ambassador to
Uzbekistan in 2002, described the
independence as a way for
Islam Karimov to consolidate his power
rather than a move away from a Soviet-style economy and its philosophy
of exploitation of the land. Murray attributes the shrinkage of the
Aral Sea in the 1990s to Karimov's cotton policy. The government
maintained an enormous irrigation system which Murray described as
massively wasteful, with most of the water being lost through
evaporation before reaching the cotton.
Crop rotation was not used,
and the depleted soil and monoculture required massive quantities of
pesticides and fertilizer. The runoff from the fields washed these
chemicals into the shrinking sea, creating severe pollution and health
problems. As the water supply of the
Aral Sea decreased, the demand
for cotton increased and the Soviet reacted by pouring more pesticides
and fertilizer onto the land. Murray compared the system to the
slavery system in the pre-Civil War United States; forced labor was
used, and profits were siphoned off by the powerful and
By summer 2003, the
South Aral Sea was vanishing faster than
predicted. In the deepest parts of the sea, the bottom waters were
saltier than the top, and not mixing. Thus, only the top of the sea
was heated in the summer, and it evaporated faster than would
otherwise be expected. In 2003, the South Aral further divided into
eastern and western basins.
In 2004, the Aral Sea's surface area was only 17,160 km2 (6,630 sq
mi), 25% of its original size, and a nearly five-fold increase in
salinity had killed most of its natural flora and fauna. By 2007, the
sea's area had further shrunk to 10% of its original size. The decline
of the North Aral has now been partially reversed following
construction of a dam (see below), but the remnants of the South Aral
continue to disappear and its drastic shrinkage has created the
Aralkum , a desert on the former lake bed.
The inflow of groundwater into the
South Aral Sea will probably not
in itself be able to stop the desiccation, especially without a change
in irrigation practices. This inflow of about 4 km3 (0.96 cu mi) per
year is larger than previously estimated. The groundwater originates
Tian Shan Mountains and finds its way through
geological layers to a fracture zone at the bottom of the Aral.
Aral Sea from space, North at bottom, August 1985
Aral Sea from space, North at bottom, August 1997
Aral Sea from space, North at top, August 2009
IMPACT ON ENVIRONMENT, ECONOMY, AND PUBLIC HEALTH
The ecosystems of the
Aral Sea and the river deltas feeding into it
have been nearly destroyed, not least because of the much higher
salinity. The receding sea has left huge plains covered with salt and
toxic chemicals – the results of weapons testing , industrial
projects, and pesticides and fertilizer runoff – which are picked up
and carried away by the wind as toxic dust and spread to the
surrounding area. As a result, the land around the
Aral Sea is heavily
polluted, and the people living in the area are suffering from a lack
of fresh water and health problems , including high rates of certain
forms of cancer and lung diseases. Respiratory illnesses, including
tuberculosis (most of which is drug resistant ) and cancer, digestive
disorders, anaemia , and infectious diseases are common ailments in
the region. Liver, kidney, and eye problems can also be attributed to
the toxic dust storms. These dust storms also contributed to the lack
of fresh water since the salt melted the glaciers faster and not
enough moisture was in the air to help replace them. The dust storms
increased the melting levels for the glaciers by 12 times the normal
rate. Health concerns associated with the region are a cause for an
unusually high fatality rate amongst vulnerable parts of the
population. The child mortality rate is 75 in every 1,000 newborns and
maternity death is 12 in every 1,000 women. An overuse of pesticides
on crops was one of the contributing factors to this. To get their
crops to grow, their pesticide use would have to exceed health
standards and could be twenty times more than the national average.
Crops in the region are destroyed by salt being deposited onto the
land and are flushed with water at least 4 times a day to try and
remove the salinity from the soils. Vast salt plains exposed by the
shrinking Aral have produced dust storms , making regional winters
colder and summers hotter.
Aral Sea fishing industry, which in its heyday employed some
40,000 and reportedly produced one-sixth of the Soviet Union's entire
fish catch, has been devastated, and former fishing towns along the
original shores have become ship graveyards . The town of
Uzbekistan had a thriving harbor and fishing industry that employed
about 30,000 people; now it lies miles from the shore. Fishing boats
lie scattered on the dry land that was once covered by water; many
have been there for 20 years. The only significant fishing company
left in the area has its fish shipped from the
Baltic Sea , thousands
of kilometers away.
Also destroyed is the muskrat -trapping industry in the deltas of the
Amu Darya and Syr Darya, which used to yield as many as 500,000 pelts
Aral Sea dust storm, March 2010
Abandoned ship near Aral,
A former harbor in the city of Aral
Local Kazakh fisherman harvesting the day's catch
POSSIBLE ENVIRONMENTAL SOLUTIONS
Many different solutions to the problems have been suggested over the
years, varying in feasibility and cost, including:
* Improving the quality of irrigation canals
* Installing desalination plants
* Charging farmers to use the water from the rivers
* Using alternative cotton species that require less water
* Promoting non-agricultural economic development in upstream
* Using fewer chemicals on the cotton
* Cultivating crops other than cotton
* Installing dams to fill the Aral Sea
* Redirecting water from the Volga , Ob and
Irtysh Rivers to restore
Aral Sea to its former size in 20–30 years at a cost of
* Pumping sea water into the
Aral Sea from the
Caspian Sea via a
pipeline, and diluting it with fresh water from local catchment areas
In January 1994,
Turkmenistan , Tajikistan
Kyrgyzstan signed a deal to pledge 1% of their budgets to help
the sea recover.
In March 2000,
UNESCO presented their "Water-related vision for the
Aral Sea basin for the year 2025" at the second World Water Forum in
The Hague. This document was criticized for setting unrealistic goals
and for giving insufficient attention to the interests of the area
immediately around the former lakesite, implicitly giving up on the
Aral Sea and the people living on the Uzbek side of the lake.
By 2006, the
World Bank 's restoration projects, especially in the
North Aral, were giving rise to some unexpected, tentative relief in
what had been an extremely pessimistic picture.
ARAL SEA BASIN PROGRAM
The future of the Aral Sea, and the responsibility for its survival
are now in the hands of the five countries: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. In 1994, they adopted the
Aral Sea Basin Program. The Program’s four objectives are:
* To stabilize the environment of the
Aral Sea Basin
* To rehabilitate the disaster area around the sea
* To improve the management of the international waters of the Aral
* To build the capacity of institutions at the regional and national
level to advance the program’s aims
ASBP: Phase One
The first phase of the plan effectively began with the first
involvement from the
World Bank in 1992, and was in operation until
1997. It was ineffectual for a number of reasons, but mainly because
it was focused on improving directly the land around the Aral Sea,
whilst not intervening in the water usage upstream. There was
considerable concern amongst the Central Asian governments, which
realised the importance of the
Aral Sea in the ecosystem and the
economy of Central Asia, and they were prepared to cooperate, but they
found it difficult to implement the procedures of the plan.
This is due in part to a lack of co-operation among the affected
people. The water flowing into the
Aral Sea has long been considered
an important commodity, and trade agreements have been made to supply
the downstream communities with water in the spring and summer months
for irrigation. In return, they supply the upstream countries with
fuel during the winter, instead of storing water during the warm
months for hydroelectric purposes in winter. However, very few legal
obligations are binding these contracts, particularly on an
ASBP: Phase Two
Phase Two of the
Aral Sea Basin program followed in 1998 and ran for
five years. The main shortcomings of phase two were due to its lack of
integration with the local communities involved. The scheme was drawn
up by the World Bank, government representatives, and various
technical experts, without consulting those who would be affected. An
example of this was the public awareness initiatives, which were seen
as propagandist attempts by people with little care or understanding
of their situation. These failures have led to the introduction of a
new plan, funded by a number of institutions, including the five
countries involved and the World Bank.
ASBP: Phase Three
In 1997, a new plan was conceived which would continue with the
previous restoration efforts of the Aral Sea. The main aims of this
phase are to improve the irrigation systems currently in place, whilst
targeting water management at a local level. The largest project in
this phase is the
North Aral Sea Project, a direct effort to recover
the northern region of the Aral Sea. The
North Aral Sea Project’s
main initiative is the construction of a dam across the Berg Strait, a
deep channel which connects the
North Aral Sea to the South Aral Sea.
The Kok-Aral Dam is eight miles long and has capacity for over 29
cubic kilometres of water to be stored in the North Aral Sea, whilst
allowing excess to overflow into the South Aral Sea.
NORTH ARAL SEA RESTORATION WORK
Comparison of the
North Aral Sea before (below) and after
(above) the construction of
Dike Kokaral completed in 2005.
Comparison of the
North Aral Sea in 2000 and 2011.
Work is being done to restore in part the North Aral Sea. Irrigation
works on the
Syr Darya have been repaired and improved to increase its
water flow, and in October 2003, the Kazakh government announced a
plan to build
Dike Kokaral , a concrete dam separating the two halves
of the Aral Sea. Work on this dam was completed in August 2005; since
then, the water level of the North Aral has risen, and its salinity
has decreased. As of 2006 , some recovery of sea level has been
recorded, sooner than expected. "The dam has caused the small Aral's
sea level to rise swiftly to 38 m (125 ft), from a low of less than 30
m (98 ft), with 42 m (138 ft) considered the level of viability."
Economically significant stocks of fish have returned, and observers
who had written off the
North Aral Sea as an environmental disaster
were surprised by unexpected reports that, in 2006, its returning
waters were already partly reviving the fishing industry and producing
catches for export as far as Ukraine. The restoration reportedly gave
rise to long-absent rain clouds and possible microclimate changes,
bringing tentative hope to an agricultural sector swallowed by a
regional dustbowl , and some expansion of the shrunken sea.
"The sea, which had receded almost 100 km (62 mi) south of the
Aralsk , is now a mere 25 km (16 mi) away." The Kazakh
Foreign Ministry stated that "The North Aral Sea's surface increased
from 2,550 square kilometers (980 sq mi) in 2003 to 3,300 square
kilometers (1,300 sq mi) in 2008. The sea's depth increased from 30
meters (98 ft) in 2003 to 42 meters (138 ft) in 2008." Now, a second
dam is to be built based on a
World Bank loan to Kazakhstan, with the
start of construction initially slated for 2009 and postponed to 2011,
to further expand the shrunken Northern Aral, eventually reducing the
Aralsk to only 6 km (3.7 mi). Then, it was planned to
build a canal spanning the last 6 km, to reconnect the withered former
Aralsk to the sea.
Kazakhstan has made major efforts to revive the Aral Sea. The 13 km
(8.1 mi) Kok-Aral dam, completed in 2005 by
Kazakhstan and financed by
World Bank, allows water of the
Syr Darya to accumulate and helps
restore delta and riverine wetland ecosystems in the Northern Sea.
Since then, the northern part of the lake, which lies in Kazakhstan,
is slowly reviving.
FUTURE OF SOUTH ARAL SEA
Aral Sea in August 2010, with part of the eastern basin
reflooded from heavy snowmelt. The
Aral Sea completely loses
Its Eastern Lobe in August 2014
The South Aral Sea, half of which lies in Uzbekistan, was largely
abandoned to its fate. Only excess water from the
North Aral Sea is
now periodically allowed to flow into the largely dried-up South Aral
Sea through a sluice in the dike. Discussions had been held on
recreating a channel between the somewhat improved North and the
desiccated South, along with uncertain wetland restoration plans
throughout the region, but political will is lacking. Uzbekistan
shows no interest in abandoning the
Amu Darya river as an abundant
source of cotton irrigation, and instead is moving toward oil
exploration in the drying South Aral seabed.
Attempts to mitigate the effects of desertification include planting
vegetation in the newly exposed seabed; however, intermittent flooding
of the eastern basin is likely to prove problematic for any
development. Redirecting what little flow there is from the Amu Darya
to the western basin may salvage fisheries there while relieving the
flooding of the eastern basin.
The Interstate Commission for Water Coordination of Central Asia
(ICWC) was formed on February 18, 1992 to formally unite the five
Central Asian countries in the hopes of solving environmental as well
as socioeconomic problems in the
Aral Sea region. These five states
are the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of
Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan. The River
Basin Organizations (the BVOs) of the
Syr Darya and
Amu Darya rivers
were institutions called upon by the ICWC to help manage water
resources. According to the ICWC, the main objectives of the body
* River basin management
* Water allocation without conflict
* Organization of water conservation on transboundary water courses
* Interaction with hydrometeorological services of the countries on
flow forecast and account
* Introduction of automation into head structures
* Regular work on ICWC and its bodies' activity advancement
* Interstate agreements preparation
* International relations
* Scientific research
The International Fund for Saving the
Aral Sea (IFAS) was developed
on March 23, 1993 by the ICWC to raise funds for the projects under
Aral Sea Basin programs. The IFAS was meant to finance programs to
save the sea and improve on environmental issues associated with the
basin’s drying. This program has had some success with joint summits
of the countries involved and finding funding from the
World Bank to
implement projects; however, it faces many challenges, such as
enforcement and slowing progress.
Vozrozhdeniya Island “Rebirth” Island joins
the mainland in mid-2001.
Vozrozhdeniya, also known as "Resurrection Island", is a former
island of the
Aral Sea or
South Aral Sea . Due to the ongoing
shrinkage of the Aral, it became first a peninsula in mid-2001 and
finally part of the mainland . Other islands like
Barsa-Kelmes shared a similar fate. Since the disappearance of the
Southeast Aral in 2008, Vozrozhdeniya effectively no longer exists as
a distinct geographical feature. The area is now shared by Kazakhstan
In 1948, a top-secret Soviet bioweapons laboratory was established on
the island, in the center of the
Aral Sea which is now disputed
Uzbekistan . The exact history,
functions and current status of this facility are still unclear, but
bio-agents tested there included
Bacillus anthracis , Coxiella
Francisella tularensis ,
Brucella suis , Rickettsia
Variola major (smallpox),
Yersinia pestis , botulinum
toxin , and
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus
Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus . In 1971,
weaponized smallpox from the island reached a nearby ship, which then
allowed the virus to spread to the city of Aral . Ten people there
were infected, of whom 3 died, and a massive vaccination effort
involving 50,000 inhabitants ensued (see
Aral smallpox incident ). The
bioweapons base was abandoned in 1992 following the disintegration of
Soviet Union the previous year. Scientific expeditions proved this
had been a site for production, testing and later dumping of
pathogenic weapons . In 2002, through a project organized by the
United States and with Uzbekistan's assistance, 10 anthrax burial
sites were decontaminated. According to the Kazakh Scientific Center
for Quarantine and Zoonotic Infections, all burial sites of anthrax
OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION
Ergash Shaismatov , the deputy prime minister of
announced on August 30, 2006, that the
Uzbek government and an
international consortium consisting of state-run
LUKoil Overseas ,
Korea National Oil Corporation , and
China National Petroleum Corporation signed a production-sharing
agreement to explore and develop oil and gas fields in the Aral Sea,
Aral Sea is largely unknown, but it holds a lot of
promise in terms of finding oil and gas. There is risk, of course, but
we believe in the success of this unique project." The consortium was
created in September 2005.
As of June 1, 2010, 500,000 cubic meters of gas had been extracted
from the region at a depth of 3 km.
The plight of the Aral coast was portrayed in the 1989 film Psy
("Dogs") by Soviet director Dmitri Svetozarov. The film was shot on
location in an actual ghost town located near the Aral Sea, showing
scenes of abandoned buildings and scattered vessels.
In 2000, the MirrorMundo foundation produced a documentary film
called Delta Blues about the problems arising from the drying up of
In June 2007,
BBC World broadcast a documentary called Back From The
Brink? made by Borna Alikhani and Guy Creasey that showed some of the
changes in the region since the introduction of the Aklak Dam.
Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov 's 2012 movie
Waiting for the Sea deals with
the impacts on people's life in a fishing town at the shore of the
In October 2013,
Al Jazeera produced a documentary film called People
of The Lake, directed by Ensar Altay, describing the current
In 2014, director Po Powell shot much of the footage for the Pink
Floyd single "Louder Than Words " video near the remains of the Aral
Sea on the border between
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. .
List of drying lakes
* Draining of the Mesopotamian marshes – a similar water diversion
project in Iraq
Sistan Basin – a large wetland ecosystem in
Afghanistan and Iran
on the verge of collapse
Sudd – a large marshland in Africa, site of another planned
large-scale draining project
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