ASTANA – Uzbek athlete and organizer of mass races Andrey Kulikov ran the Aral Eco Marathon with a distance of over 42 kilometers along the bottom of the Aral Sea, dedicated to World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, the Uzbek Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection, and Climate Change said on its Telegram channel on June 17.
The race aims to bring global attention to the region’s environmental issues and to motivate everyone to take proactive steps to save the planet.
“To truly experience this ecological catastrophe, the desertification of the Aral Sea region, you have to visit this place,” said Kulikov.
The race was broadcast live on the ministry’s YouTube channel.
Established at the 49th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1994, the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is observed every year on June 17 to promote public awareness.
The Aral Sea water volume shrunk nearly tenfold from its original size in 1960. The region’s ecological devastation has ravaged the ecosystem and harmed local people that used to rely on the lake for fishing. They are susceptible to frequent sand and dust storms that harm both humans and cattle.
The Aral Sea is divided into two parts: the large Aral in the territory of Uzbekistan and the small Aral in Kazakhstan. Two transboundary rivers, the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya, flow into the Aral Sea. The Syr Darya River originates in the highlands of the Kyrgyz Republic. It flows through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan, with the Kyzylorda Region of Kazakhstan as its final destination.
In May, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) organized an expedition to the dried bottom of the Aral Sea to draw attention to the Aral Sea disaster and promote dialogue and knowledge among organizations working in the region.
Thanks to joint efforts, the water level in the Aral Sea has increased by nearly 1.5 billion cubic meters since the start of this year, rising to 95 centimeters for the first time in many years.