Photographer's Note

The picture was taken on the ground of what once was Lake Aral. From time to time some camels walk past and you can still find shells in the sand.

When the lake dried up, only the salt dissolved in the water was left. Thus vast areas of former lake ground are now extremely salty. Since the climate was changed too (the lake used to be something like an aircon for the surrounding desert), continuous salt storms are now devastating the last fertile regions of Uzbekistan and western Kazakhstan.

Due to these salt storms all but one of the remaining ships are rusty and on the brink of collapsing. This ship is the only exception - a dutch camera team painted the ship and named it Karakalpakia (for the region ist called Karakalpakstan) in order not to let it look so desolate on the documentary they were producing.

So there is salt, where water used to be and where a thriving fishing industry offered work for hundreds, today are desert and unemployment. Muynak used to be a favourite holiday resort at Soviet times and scheduled ferryboats connected the island to the portcities of Aralsk and Nukus but from a population of once more than 20.000 only 2.000 remain today.
Life expectancy has fallen from 69 in 1979 to 41 in 2003 and enormous amounts of toxic materials used in the cotton industry as well as the remains of several close by Soviet laboratories on chemical- and biological warfare have polluted a whole region.
Karakalpakstan today has one of the highest rates of child mortality in the world and it is assumed by the WHO that only 30% of the children born every year do not suffer from major genetic defects or diseases such as anaemia. Only 5 to 10% of the Children born nine months after September to November, when saltstorms are heaviest, survive the first week after birth and the only reason I am not posting pictures from the children's hospital in Nukus is that I want you to be able to find some sleep next night. Nevertheless, I thought I should write this here in order to spread some information about this lost region, where ships are lying in the desert.

P.S. had to scan the picture - do you have any idea, how I can prevent this unattractive fading of colours when scanning pictures???

Copyright Note:
Copyright © 2010. The reproduction, publication, modification, transmission or exploitation of any work contained herein (pictures or written text) for any use, personal or commercial, without my prior written permission is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

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