Cultural and political obstacles to accepting early warnings of the Aral Sea disaster

Dr. Wilfried Ahrens
700052 Tashkent, 72 Maxsumov kuchasi, Uzbekistan.
Tel./Fax: +007-3712-358414, or +007-3712-357295

The natural disaster due to the disappearance of the Aral Sea concerns at least 3 million people around the sea with huge loss of human health and drastic shortening of life expectancy. The reasons were known among experts in hydrology since the early 1960s. It took some years after the collapse of the Soviet Union to make it possible to discuss the variety of natural, economical, cultural and political circumstances. The urgent combating of the impacts of the disaster on the people immediately concerned in the crisis area, as well as for the whole region, with its 40 to 50 millions of people, seems to fail again because of cultural reasons. The example points out the necessity of being politically prepared for action, if early warnings of natural disasters are produced, provided that the disaster and its social background are scientifically known and combating it is possible. The warnings of geo-scientists against natural disasters are disregarded if common well-being of the people takes second place to other priorities of national policy. The Central Asian way of life and absent awareness of environment prevent the native peoples from self-preservation. The newly independent states in Central Asia are, seven years after the radical change of political relations, unable to repair long-range failures of Soviet Union policy in sustainable development.