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disaster, too, he added, in which the

sea’s disappearance brought unemploy-

ment, poverty and emigration.

Darmenov, 58, didn’t hesitate to

place blame squarely on the


, whose

agricultural scientists and civil engineers

transformed semi-arid steppe into fields

of cotton and wheat through irrigation

that required building some 30,000

kilometers of canals, 45 dams and more

than 80 reservoirs.

Once-abundant freshwater fish, commem-


at left

by a statue in Aral, were

reduced to a vestige of their former

numbers by both the decrease of habitat

and the rising salinity caused by the lack of

replenishment from the Syr Darya and

Amu Darya. Stranded as waters retreated

and abandoned by their owners, fishing

fleets such as this one at Zhalanash,


now only hint at the former shoreline.