The Port City with No Sea

August 28, 2017

The Ecotopia 2121 Project details the futures of 100 cities across the globe as though they've somehow overcome all environmental challenges. This month, we highlight the future of Moynaq.

 

In the 1950s, Moynaq, rested against the shores of the Aral Sea in Central Asia. The Aral is an inland sea, and was once catogorized as the fourth largest lake in the world. Since then, the Aral Sea has been shrinking and shrinking. This disappearing water has mostly been used to irrigate the huge cotton farms of both Russia and Uzbekistan.

 

The Aral Sea has shrunk so much over the past fifty years that it has become a series of near-lifeless polluted slithery lakes. In the 1950s and 1960s, Moynaq was a major seaport and fishing town. Now, though, it is stranded some forty miles from the Sea. The city’s shipyard is completely dry and pitted with rusting ships.

 

Meanwhile, the new land that has emerged from the receding lake has been re-named Aralkum; the Aral Desert. Every now and again, a violent dust storm whips up the sands of the Aralkum blowing them westwards across Eurasia. As if this was not bad enough—the sand is laced with leftover chemicals of toxic pesticides.

 

As the Aral Sea receded, Moynaq’s economy was destroyed and now the remaining residents must carve out an existence however they can from their new desert. A small ecotourism industry has sprung up as people from around the world travel to the town to gaze upon one of the world’s greatest eco-tragedies, and to view Moynaq’s haunting ship-graveyard. Many local people still hope that, one day, the Aral’s rivers will flow once again and the lake will grow to be alive once more. By 2121, this has not happened, but the residents creatively reconstruct their town to include a series of buildings celebrating their nationally-famed teas and which also symbolize the sea-faring past of the city.

 

More cities of the future at: The Ecotopia 2121 Project

 

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