Before its shallowing, the Aral Sea was the fourth-largest lake in the world, an oasis in the Central Asian desert creating its own micro climate benefiting the communities around it. At one time here was a vibrant fishing industry and a resort area. Today, the once great Sea is mostly an acrid desert and major source of toxic dust and sandstorms. The number of people affected by the drying of the Aral exceeds 5 million. Communities that get the brunt of such toxic dust-storms are diagnosed with respiratory diseases, esophageal diseases, laryngeal cancer and even blindness. Countries in the region also use too much fossil fuel-based inputs that need large amounts of water.
Firstly, as the above demonstrates, innovations are needed to grow crops with less water and chemical inputs while maintaining yields. Secondly, hydro-resource technologies in the hands of the private sector, can now source water that most likely lies beneath the surface of the dried-up Aral basin and be taped to replenish portions of the Aral Sea basin. These are not aquafers that that wells tap into but other sources of water both brackish and pure as well as self-recharging. Each source can produce between 1-4 Million Liters per Day of fresh water. Artificial intelligence (AI) based geomagnetic mapping can find these sources. It these and other strategies that can now give portions of the Aral Sea basin, particularly the South Aral Sea basin to once again serve as blue infrastructure for the Central Asian region.
Grappling with the challenges outlined above calls for unparalleled regional cooperation and convening power to gather the private sector and other key stakeholders. It is a call that the United Nations is well positioned to respond. No single government or agency has the necessary resources to address these challenges on its own.
Therefore, UN ESCAP, as the regional development arm of the United Nations, is uniquely positioned to build the capacity of its member States in an integrated approach to share and promote best practices and innovations to support country Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) obligations and complementary policy development in and beyond the region. UN ESCAP brings considerable inhouse resources and will call upon its Pacific and the Sustainable Business Network (ESBN) to bring the private sector and public sector as well as key UN partner agencies into this technical cooperation project.