The scientific and educational expedition "Aral-2018" to the North and South Aral will be held from 10 to 29 May. The expedition team includes: scientists-hydrobiologists, cartographers, historians, culturologists, archaeologists, environmentalists, biologists, journalists and photographers.
It is reported that the data on the biodiversity of plankton communities, the level of salt, phosphorus, acidity, water pollution will be collected on the results of scientific samples, which will reveal a preliminary trend in the development of the ecosystem of the North and South Aral. In addition, the expedition aims to draw a map of tourist routes in the Aral region, and also to collect unique photo and video materials.
Vice-President for Innovations at Nazarbayev University, Chairman of the Managing Council of the Kazakhstan National Geographic Society, Kanat Baigarin, addressed the participants of the expedition with words of farewell.
"I am proud to see off today's expedition to the Aral Sea. This is the third expedition of QazaqGeography to the Aral Sea. We continue to explore the opportunities for sustainable development of the region, its economic and tourism potential. One can not always talk about the tragedy of the Aral Sea, one must understand the prospects for the development of this region. People are not going to leave the region, they try to stay there. Therefore, our task is to determine the possibilities of jobs for this region. Especially now, when the Small Aral is recovering. I wish our guys success. I thank them for their dedication to the work they are doing. They are enthusiasts. Not just lovers of adventure, but people who know and are able to do business," said Kanat Baigarin.
For 19 days, an expedition consisting of 20 people on five prepared off-road vehicles will conquer almost 7000 km of Kazakhstani and Uzbek territory.
"The trip will take the following route: Astana – Karaganda – Balkhash – Shu – Taraz – Shymkent – Tashkent – Samarkand – Bukhara – Urgench – Nukus – Muinak – Aral Sea – Beineu – Bozoy – Aral Sea – Aralsk – Kyzylorda – Zhezkazgan – Karaganda – Astana. In the South and North Aral we will take about ten samples. From the scientific point of view, the salinity, acidity, water contamination and other parameters will be investigated," the Manager of QazaqGeography, the head of the expedition, Nurzhan Algashov, commented.
According to the head of the Avalon Historical and Geographical Society, Vitaliy Shuptar, the greatest interest in the Aral region for European and American tourists is a cemetery of ships, for which they travel long distances in jeeps, motorcycles, bicycles and on foot. At the same time, he is concerned that there are fewer and fewer ships on the territory of Kazakhstan. In Uzbekistan, according to him, at least some attempt has been made to preserve them.
"The main layer of history, which is interesting for travelers to the Aral Sea area, is the Soviet period. This is exactly the time when an environmental disaster occurred and left such, in its own photogenic objects — rusty skeletons of ships. For their sake, people agree to travel thousands of miles. The cemetery of ships is sawed for money, but the local authorities do not do anything against it. They do not understand that the most important tourist objects that could bring money are being destroyed," the historian expressed his position.
Vitaly Shuptar also noted that the development of cross-border tourism is important for any Central Asian country, since tourists usually visit Central Asian countries in a cluster.
"Now regional initiatives have the chances for tourism development. Because for foreign tourists we are not Kazakhstan, not Uzbekistan, not Tajikistan, we are Central Asia. And when they go to this region, they want to see a little bit here, and a little bit there. Rarely anyone comes to one country only. Thus, our countries can somehow modify our economy," said V. Shuptar.
In 2016, a team of scientists of the Nazarbayev University, as part of the expedition of the Kazakhstan National Geographic Society, studied the hydrobiological state of water in several parts of the North Aral Sea. Then the scientists recorded a tendency towards a decrease in the average salinity of the North Aral Sea, which made it possible to draw a preliminary conclusion that the ecological situation in the North Aral is improving.