In early April 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, looking out over a desert that had once been the shore of a vibrant lake teeming with life, described the retreat of the Aral Sea as “One of the planet’s worst environmental disasters.” On his swing tour through former Soviet Central Asia, Ki-Moon touched down in the Uzbek town of Muynak after touring the region by helicopter. Muynak, a city in the province of Karakalpakstan, used to be a healthy fishing port of tens of thousands but is now the epicentre of an environmental and health disaster. The Aral Sea is now over 150 km from the derelict pier at Muynak and standing on it, staring across what was once the sea bed, Ki-Moon said, “I wasn’t seeing anything; I could see only a graveyard of ships.”

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