Archive for October 8, 2008

Aral Sea or Semipalatinsk: Which is the Worst Disaster?

I asked my students in a quiz based on a short excerpt from Christopher Robbin’s book: “What is the difference between the two environmental disasters of the Aral Sea and Semipalatinsk?  Which is worse and why?” The following are their answers:


In my opinion, the disaster in Aral Sea is uncomparable with the environmental disaster in Semipalatinsk.  It’s quite a different thing.  The most shameful in both of these catastrophes is that now our government doesn’t pay any attention on the victims.  In Soviet times somebody planned the solutions of the problems, made decisions.  But now we can see nothing!  Where are these plans?  We have only facts:  Kazakhs allowed to make a polygon on their land, Kazakhs can’t make any money with the Aral Sea, people die from diseases because both Semypalatinsk and Aral Sea are disasters.  But our government can only talk too much about the consequences and do nothing with them.  This is the most shameful!


About Semipalatinsk, we have some communities that are working with this problem like “Nevada-Semipalatinsk”as some governmental project that wants to reduce influence of radiation and to help people that live there.  But there are only few communities that work to help Aral Seas problem.

Maybe everybody thinks that radiation is more dangerous than vanishing of sea.  But vanishing of Aral is world-size problem.  I read that salt from Aral was found in Central Russia.  Can you even imagine what distance it is?  It is so it can influence on Syberia, Northern Africa and Europe.


Aral Sea was the place where people can rest, it was a place where fish was widespread, of course after cultivation of cotton, Soviet destroyed the natural environment of Aral Sea zone.  Nowadays when someone goes to that zone, they’re afraid that they can get some illness, you can call Aral Sea zoneà”Dead Zone.”

But Semipalatinsk tragedy is also, and more disastrous than Aral Sea problem.  The effect is still widespread, the nuclear things still in the ground, that’s why Semipalatinsk fruits and vegetables are the worst selling ones.  People are afraid to try that product, because they are afraid that someday they will give a birth, and a child that is born will be disabled, as many of them in Semipalatinsk region are.  It’s the tragedy that still affects on our society, both of them are!


The Aral Sea disaster clearly shows that insatiable human desire for more and more and its consequences.  It also shows Moscow’s indifference to the other countries of USSR and their citizens.  I think at this point a lot of Kazakhstan citizens became disappointed in Russia’s image of “Big Brother.” Comparing Aral Sea disaster with Semipalatinsk disaster is very hard especially in terms of their negative effect on people’s health but there are two reasons why I think Aral Sea disaster is worse.  First, is that it affects flora and fauna of not only Aral Sea region, but even further.  As we heard in the article, salt form the Aral Sea brought by wind to the Europe.  The second reason is the time needed to bring everything back to the good.  It will take a lot of time to bring Aral Sea to the past size and bring life to that region back.


What I find most shameful is a huge Soviet Union with a lot of scientists who couldn’t think about this action!  I mean if there were enough clever people in the USSR, they should thought before doing something!

But I still find the situation in Semipalatinsk worse, because the affect of this catastrophe is still existing in that area!  And people who died, suffered and those who suffer even now can’t even blame anybody, as there is nobody to blame!  That was really awful action and completely irresponsible one!  Soviet Union put it’s step in our history and environment and although there were some good acts, those two are really bad.


The problem of Aral Sea…The worst part of it is that it is probably one of the biggest mistakes of humans referring to environment.  When you see the ships standing in the middle of what used to be a sea and now is a desert, and look in the eyes of men – former sailors, it’s a sad picture.

I really hope that the scientists will come up with a solution to Aral Sea disaster, because it causes a lot of problems not only in Kazakhstan  – the salt from the sea gets to the Arctic!


The disaster of Aral Sea is more widespread.  The Soviet Union government did many stupid and harmful things.  If we destroy nature, nature destroy us.  The effect of Aral disaster is longer, more time consuming to repair.

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Great Affluence in Almaty – Behind the Scenes

Sunday was quite an eventful day with the birthday celebration for Almaty, there were many high points to all the different musical numbers.  Our university was represented in one of the acts by singing a very beautiful Kazakh folk song. (Five of us were brave enough to venture into this unknown field of singing on stage to a live audience) Monday I had people come up to me and say they saw me on t.v.   I got an e-mail from a professor who saw the program and asked if I was about to sign a contract with Broadway.  Apparently, according to him I cut up a mean figure dancing the waltz with a fellow professor from our university. 

When I sing the song to my Kazakh work colleagues or students they all know this love song.  See earlier post to find out the English translation for it, it means something to me because I actually met my true love here in Almaty.  Here are the words that we sang, “Leaves rustling of Kok Tobe, will heat my missing heart”  [I think they really meant “will warm my longing heart.”]  “I reminisce every day spent with you my Almaty.  My heart is pressing [?] to you.” [I think that applies to dancing the waltz really closely] “My song is full of delight, Here I met my true, real friends, beautiful, my Almaty.” 

So, I will always remember this song and attach it to fond memories of Almaty from 15 years ago when I met my husband here while I was training Peace Corps volunteers.  I know how much this city has progressed and also see that Sunday they were showing off their affluence with the many different talents exhibited, not least of which was ours.  See the photo below where I’m kicking up a storm in the red.  My biggest fear was tripping on the stairs from the top scaffold to the main stage or falling on the plastic flooring on the stage.  Didn’t happen.

What DID happen as a low point for me was when I was walking in the downpour of rain.  I was a block away from my flat, I fell in a big puddle and wrenched my right ankle this time.  Not as bad as the sprain on my left foot while at aerobics this past January but just the same, I was completely soaked through when I finally reached the top fifth floor to be greeted by my husband who had already gotten the hot bath prepared for me.  Thanks dear.  My backpack was soaked through.  I had walked through much water that had no where to go and since I was wearing a poncho and had my umbrella I went out to one of the worst downpours I’ve seen in Almaty.  Of course, half hour later it stopped.  I believe that it had held off so as not to ruin the b.d. party for Almaty.  For that I am thankful.  I’m not so sure I will ever venture out in rain again on impassable sidewalks and road crossings.  Cars were having difficulty sloshing through the streets.

The following is from a “singing friend” of mine who sent me the following photo.  Believe me, when I fell down in the puddle in the rain, I didn’t feel elegant at all!  “We arrived in perfect time to see you disporting yourself elegantly on stage.”  Thanks Mary!

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