The Aral Sea in Central Asia, once the world’s fourth-largest inland water body, has nearly disappeared. Weather shifts from climate change coupled with decades of resource depletion from the regional reliance on water-intensive crops, has seen the body of water shrink to about one-tenth of its former size – a water surface area the size of Ireland now nothing but sand.
The Aral Sea basin spans the western reaches Uzbek-Kazakh border, and its degradation has taken with it the livelihoods and local economies of some 40 million people. Additionally, a formerly thriving fishing economy has been replaced with the growth of cotton, rice and other commodities that often receive toxic herbicides and pesticides, which have leeched into the sea bed and led to a rise in infant mortality rates and cancer.
Restoring such a landscape requires creative innovation that can is quick to deploy, affordable and applicable for use on a grand scale. The 2021 Global Disruptive Tech Challenge, hosted by the World Bank, the Kazakh-German University (DKU), the Global Landscapes Forum and other partners, aims to identify and support such technologies and approaches to solve this region’s challenges, awarding winners USD 4,000 and mentorship.
In the lead-up to the announcement of the Challenge’s winners, this GLF Live on 2 March at 12:00 CET will host a conversation between experts Vadim Sokolov and Kristina Toderich, discussing the state of the Aral Sea basin and exploring the solutions they believe can be most effective in its restoration.