Gennadiy N. Lepeshkin: Yes, as I ride the train, I gaze out the window and thoughts come to me about where I used to work and what has happened to that area. The first time I came to the test site, I saw what a lovely place it was. There was so much water, so many birds and fish! It was a wonderful spot, it was an oasis. The water was clear and pure, the shore
was covered with lovely, warm, yellow sand. That's how it was during the nearly five or six years that I was there, traveling to that wonderful... that wonderful island. Later on, the environmental consequences of water resource mismanagement caused a catastrophic drop in sea levels. I literally saw the water receding, and I saw new land appearing, new islands. The vegetation disappeared, salinity disappeare... grew.
The fish disappeared. All of this had a very terrible effect, not only on me, but especially on the people who lived there. I was just passing through, I came and went, but they remain. And they are experiencing such a difficult environmental situation. According to data in the literature, the sea has lost a large quantity of water in a very brief period. This has been noted particularly during the last fifteen to twenty years. All of the ships which were there ended up on dry land and they were cut up for scrap metal, because the people had to find a way to survive. They didn't have work, because the fish processing plants ground to a halt. People lost their jobs. The environmental consequences of the water loss turned out to be disastrous, because the sea floor, which was, let's say, strewn with pesticides from use in irrigation and combating weeds and agricultural pests, was exposed. The dust that was blown up from the sea floor had pesticides in it and all of that filth got into the air and ended up in people's lungs. People got sick from it, and it's led to intensified environmental allergies of various types. People began to get eye disorders, lung diseases, conditions affecting their organs... internal organs. It's a difficult environmental situation. So I ride along and I think about what will become of those people. At the same time, though, I know that there are organizations working on saving the Aral, there are measures that have been taken by the government of the Republic and the international community to save some of those water resources and provide decent living conditions for the people who have settled on the shores and live on the shores of that magnificent sea. I think that the measures that are being taken will have a beneficial effect on the lives of everyone in the region.
And some initial results are already apparent. I read that there are projects to restore the North Aral Sea, water is reaching people, fish are appearing, new employers are appearing and new processing plants are appearing. So, gradually, gradually, the Aral problem is in fact being addressed.