$4.3bn earmarked to save Aral Sea

Aral SeaUzbekistan’s government has announced that $4.3bn is to be spent over the next three years to counter the depletion of water in the Aral Sea and to boost the region’s economy,
The program provides for $1.09bn to rationalise use of the region’s water resources; $321.2m for projects aimed at increasing employment; $433.7 million to the population’s health; and $158m towards the restoration of the region’s ecological system and biological diversity. The remaining $2.29bn will go towards the modernisation of production and the improvement of infrastructure and will be financed through foreign loans ($3.5 billion), international grants ($200 million), and funds from the Uzbek government.
Located in the desert between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the Aral Sea was the world’s fourth-largest lake before 1960, but has almost halved in size in the ensuing 50 years, largely because of the Soviet government’s decision to divert the water from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers that run into it to boost agricultural production in the region, particularly the water-intensive cotton industry.
In 1993, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan set up the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.