Aral Sea restoration project nets $126 million more from World Bank

When is a sea not a sea? When it’s a desert. Over the last five decades, the inland Aral Sea — which straddles the border of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan — has shrunk to a fraction of its original size, thanks to Soviet policies that diverted its feeder rivers for farming. But a dam funded by the World Bank has begun to restore the Kazakh section, and now a second, $126 million infusion from the bank will do even more to fix one of the world’s worst human-made environmental disasters. “The rebirth of the Northern Aral Sea … shows that if we fret about the environment and invest money, it is possible to get reassuring results,” says Viktor Danilov-Danilyan of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “The loss of such a unique natural resource … would be a global tragedy. And it cannot be allowed to happen.” Heeding Viktor: Kazakhs who are once again catching fish and finding strength in the sea. Not so much heeding: Uzbeks who may leave their part of the seabed dry and explore it for oil and gas.