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Witness
Return to the Sea
While their ships rot on a desert sailors reminisce and rejoice the seas return.
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2009 08:12 GMT

Watch part two

Filmmaker: Antony Butts

One of the most arresting images from the past few decades is the rusting, rotting ships left high and dry on the sandy bottom of the Aral sea.

It represented an ecological disaster of epic proportions. The Aral Sea once covered  68,000 sqare kilometers, an area about the size of Ireland. It was the fourth largest sea on earth.

But the old Soviet Union central planning system decided one day to divert two giant rivers away from the Aral sea to grow cotton in the deserts further south.

Without fresh water the Aral sea evaporated and became a desert. All the water left and the ships remained.

Before the sea disappeared and the fish died out most of the people had lived by fishing. One of the best fisherman of the Aral sea and his crew would regularly hold sturgeon weighing almost a hundred kilos over the gunnels.

But those Kazakhs who had lived by fishing had to adapt fast or die. Now they herd camels and tell what must seem like fishermen's tales to their grandchildren.

Antony Butts travelled east to Kazakhstan and found a faint glimmer of hope on the horizon. Some areas are being re-flooded: Return to the sea.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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