We are the World Aral Region Charity!
In the summer of 2016, our founding member took a trip to the dying Aral Sea. She visited Muynak, an old port city on the dried-up shoreline. What she saw stunned her. A row of rusted, beached ships lay below in the desert left behind.
The inhabitants, ex-fishermen, said that the sea had receded by more than 62 miles. In its place lies a layer of condensed chemical waste that destroys crops and leads to widespread respiratory illnesses and cancer.
The drying of the Aral Sea is man-made. Under the Soviet Union, rivers in Central Asia were heavily exploited for cotton. This, compounded by inefficient farming and misinformation, led to a depletion of water resources. There is little one can do to save the sea. Today, local populations across the Aral Basin contend with the appalling consequences, lacking the resources to respond.
Upon her return to the US, Gulsara worked with a group of students at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University to open new channels for aid. So how could we spread the word? Few donors are familiar with the Aral Sea, Uzbekistan, and Central Asia in general.
We quickly realized the need for people-to-people exchange. Change starts by simply engaging young volunteers from the US with their peers in the Aral Region! For each field project, we invited a group of Americans, who would volunteer alongside local high-schoolers. Upon returning to the US, our students become ambassadors for the Aral. On campuses, we organize cultural events to share the relationship between Central Asia’s water and its age-old traditions.
Having raised funds, we focused on the most vulnerable communities. Solutions are abundant but expensive. In partnership with local NGOs, schools, and farmers, we focus on: 1. reverse osmosis filtration to desalinate water; 2. drip-line systems to promote water-efficient farming; 3. adaptable fruit trees able to fight malnutrition; 4. saxaul trees to block toxic sands. With small steps, we hope to make a tangible contribution to the well-being of partner communities.
Our first field project was small. With just two thousand dollars, how could we make the largest possible impact on the future of the Aral Region? The answer is in education. From 2017-2021, we trained approximately 200 young Uzbekistanis on how to be an effective advocate for the environment. Whereas a reverse osmosis filter will eventually need to be replaced, we hope our students will become the catalyst for a new generation of local ecological volunteers.
We believe our experience building holistic projects that combine environmental engineering, education, and the Arts can be applied beyond the Aral Sea region. In 2020, WARC expanded into wider Eurasia. From the Balkans to Kamchatka, the region’s nature faces unprecedented challenges. We hope to inspire young people from around the world to address these issues with engaging and effective projects.
To do so, however, we need the help of a committed team of volunteers and donors willing to support our operations. The Aral Sea Crisis is a symptom of a global issue. Its story is being replicated all across the world. Let’s act before it is too late!