Refill the Aral Sea

Planting 80 billion more giant canopy trees will get us back up to the original total 20 million square miles of worldwide forests. To do this desertified regions need to be reforested. Like the Rishi Valley in India, which had become deforested scrub land, and now is a macro-organic garden with over 150 species of returned migratory birds. The inhabitants of the Rishi Valley planted “anchor species” of trees, cooling and moisturizing the earth, so that topsoil can be rebuilt, one cubic meter at a time. They built “contour bands” to channel runoff into percolation tanks that raised the water level from 40 feet back up to 10 feet.

Two thousand miles to the northwest, in central asia, the Aral Sea is dying. This lake, once the 4th largest on earth, is on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It is watered by their respective rivers, the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya. In the 1950´s the Kara Kum canal was opened, draining these rivers for large scale cotton irrigation. The lake is less than half the size it was, and it is no longer a viable fishery. Dust storms off the former sea bottom innundate the lands for tens of thousands of square miles. It is among the worst environmental catastrophes in history.

The solution is not so hard to figure out. Getting the area to bloom with value creating and earth enhancing (instead of depleting) plants will get the economy booming. A positive feedback loop of earth restoration and prosperity is created. Look to the example of the Rishi. Reduce the flow of
the Kara Kum canal and establish timber plantations and organic farms that will have lower water consumption rates. At the estuary leading into the Aral Sea divert the increased fresh water flows into acquaculture farms. Displaced cotton workers will work for the new fishery industry, or on the farms and timber plantations.

Originally 50 cubic kilometers per year went into the Aral Sea. Now at least 30 cubic kilometers per year are still being diverted for cotton irrigation. Concrete lining on the canals would save water. A good cash flow of this sort of enterprise should show vastly increased regional wealth. Timber is a good cash crop, food crops and fish sustain a growing Central Asian population.

From the north a big pipe and ditch from the Volga would be a good joint venture for Russians and Kazakhs. Five or ten cubic kilometers or more from the much larger Volga would also expand the Aral Sea. Divert the Ob south, for that matter. Is it worth it?

Where else to plant these 80 billion trees, if not on reclaimed desert, or hyper-salinated farmland? Where else but in these new wastelands of the dark side of our ingenuity? Five million square miles is a lot of territory, folks. Where else are the new deserts to plant, around Lake Chad perhaps, or anywhere in Mato Grosso? Making the world a garden of food, fish and timber where there once was a Sahel on the move, or a Kalihari, or the sands of the Aral Depression. Yes.

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