The Aral Sea Rises Again

The Aral Sea was once one of the largest lakes in the world, but today all that remains is just two small lakes. Insanely bad environmental practices killed the lake which has had negative impacts on nature (obviously) and on humans who used to live on the shore. Since the sea was declared dead years ago there have been attempts to revive the once-great lake, and it turns out these efforts are working.

The Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth-largest inland body of water, but has been for ever altered by the Soviet era irrigation policies to reclaim the desert for cotton farming by rerouting the rivers the Amu Darya and Syr Darya.

Two separate lakes – the North and South Arals – are all that’s left, while most of its former seabed has been reclaimed by the sand.

But efforts to restore the lake have yielded some results recently. Since the completion of the Kokaral dam in 2005, financed by the World Bank, and the completion of hydropower stations, the winds of change have reached Tastubek.

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Damn Those Dams

Dams were a popular way (and still are in some places) to manipulate water reserves for people and as a way to generate energy. The problem with this naturally flowing water being dammed is that it kills fish and negatively impacts other wildlife. Dams cause a huge amount of damage on their local ecosystem and this cascades to more damage with each additional flow blockage.

It’s time to teardown the dams.

There are other reasons to reconsider dams: many of them, like our roads and bridges, are aging. The US Army Corps of engineers estimates that a third of the dams it monitors pose a “high” or “significant” hazard. The same week I traveled to Yosemite, severe rain in South Carolina washed out 14 dams and weakened 62 others. Nineteen people died. It was a grim reminder that some of our dams are already coming down, without our help.

Over the last two decades, organizations like the Sierra Club and American Rivers have spearheaded a movement to remove nuisance dams. Their campaign has been remarkably successful: between 2006 and 2014, over 500 dams were removed from American rivers — more than were taken down over the entire century prior.

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Chilean Dam Project Broken Up Thanks to Activists and Locals

Activism works, just ask the Chilean communities that stopped a hydroelectric dam from being built. The dam was going to cause a lot of local ecological havoc with little actual gain to the local populace. The Chilean government has backed down from building the dam and the communities that were to be affected are celebrating the decision. Chile is committed to supporting other forms of renewable energy that won’t cause such environmental damage.

The committee “decided to side with complaints presented by the community,” Environment Minister Pablo Badenier told reporters. “As of now, the hydroelectric project has been rejected.”

Opponents complained that the plan required 5,700 hectares (14,000 acres) of land to be submerged and would involve cutting through swathes of forests to build the dams along the Baker and Pascua rivers. Fears were also expressed that the project, which would have involved the relocation of some three dozen families, would destroy vital habitat for the endangered Southern Huemul deer.

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