• PhotoGenie

The revival of the Aral Sea

This week’s Photogenie theme is titled "Disruptive Dependence". Through visual stories, our curators research the question “How is agricultural production affecting communities and the environment?"

Have you heard about the Aral Sea? Once the 4th largest sea in the world, but now almost gone, mainly because of cotton production.

Aral dreams is the project of photographer Didier Bizet. This series portrays the life of inhabitants of Tastubek, a village in Kazachstan where the impact of the politics of the Soviet Union are still visible.

The village of Tastubek used to be a port of the Aral Sea. The Aral Sea was once the world's fourth-largest inland sea of 26,000 square kilometers. However, in 1960 this changed because of Stalin’s plan named ‘Great plan for the transformation of Nature’. This resulted in using the water of the Aral Sea for an irrigation project to create cotton plantations and wheat field. As the name of the plan states, a transformation of nature did indeed occur, 90% of Aral’s surface water disappeared in 40 years. This has affected the landscapes in Tastubek. Sand has bleached the landscape and color has vanished, captured by Didier Bizet in Aral Dreams.

The environmental changes resulting from the come of the cotton industry in Kazachstan can be linked to the fashion industry. Cotton is an unsustainable fibre because of the usage of enormous amounts of water and pesticides. It takes 10,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilo of cotton, meaning it takes about 2,700 liters to make 1 cotton t-shirt. An outcome of the rise of the fast fashion industry, and higher cotton production, is soil degradation. Therefore, the fishing industry, one of the most important industries in this area, was not possible anymore. This affected trade and the economy and therefore people’s lives.

Sand has bleached the landscape and color has vanished.

However, in 2005, the Kazakh government started to bring back the water in the Aral Sea with the help of the World Bank. The solution was a 13-km long dam, built to the south of the sea. The implementation was successful and within a few years water began to rise and people were able to start working again as fisherman, and industry that was completely vanished a few years earlier. After the construction of the dam, more than 15 species of fish came up and the fishing production expanded once again. From 600 tons in 1996 to 7200 tons today.

About the artist

After graduating in arts and working years in advertising as an art director, Didier Bizet joined the Hans Lucas studio in June 2015 and spent time only for photography. As a freelance photographer, his attraction goes to the former countries of the Soviet bloc. Documentary photography is a learning of the environment for Bizet since it helps giving answers to his own questions about societies.

Check out Didier Bizet full body of work at http://www.didierbizet.com/ and @didierbizet at instagram.

Written by Noura Oul Fakir

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