#AralSea could become major logistics hub for Central Asia

| October 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

161020aralsea2The South Aral Sea, half of which lies in Uzbekistan, has suffered from neglect, although excess water from the North Aral Sea is now periodically allowed to flow into it. The inland sea, which was virtually lost after disastrous Soviet-era planning led to one of the world’s worst environmental disasters. The area is finally seeing positive signs of regeneration.

Following actions by the government of Kazakhstan, primarily the construction of the eight-mile Kokaral Dam, a project began in 2003 in cooperation with the World Bank, water levels in the Northern part of sea, which split into two in 1986, have risen faster than expected. Salinity levels are decreasing, and fish stocks have increased and being exported.

Full international assistance and greater cooperation between the countries of the region will continue to be important. Political analyst and strategist Frank Schwalba-Hoth, a former politician with extensive experience in the region, highlighted the difficulties to be found in travelling the vast distances between the major towns and cities in the region, a situation that inhibits trade. The desire to increase trade between the Central Asian nations is real: Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, for example, are seeking to increase trade turnover between them.

In December 2015, Natig Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s Energy Minister, at a briefing following the 12th session of the Azerbaijan-Kazakhstan Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation noted that the dynamics of trade turnover between the two countries was declining. “However, the potential is very high to increase trade turnover,” he said.

“Active commercial use of a regenerated Aral Sea could certainly stimulate economic activity at the all important local and SME levels” former EU Parliamentarian Thomas Wise told the Brussels conference.

Inland waterways are the earliest effective form of long distance travel. Many countries seeking to address issues of road congestion and carbon emissions, are currently revisiting the option of water-borne transport.

It is envisaged that sea routes between the countries of the region – the Aral Sea is bordered by the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan – would facilitate easy and cost-effective connections between the five states, and would drive economic development in a region that has suffered economically as a result of the loss of the sea.

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Category: A Frontpage, Azerbaijan, Economy, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, World

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