Aralsk (also spelled Aral - Kazakh spelling) is a city situated in Kzyl-Orda oblast (region) of Kazakhstan. Aralsk city was formerly a fishing port and harbor on the coast of Aral Sea. Aralsk city was an important supplier of fish and other products of the sea to the neighboring regions.
The climate of the area is of sharp continental type, droughty, with little precipitation (about 120 mm a year).
Aralsk population is about 30,000 (2009).
Aralsk phone code - +7 72433; postal code - 120100.
Close to current Aralsk since 1817 there was a village Alty-Kuduk (6 wells) - at present this is a railway passing-track in the southern part of the city. Since 1870s it was recorded as Aralsky settlement. The development of Aralsk began when Orenburg-Tashkent railway was being constructed (1899-1905). In 1905 the railway station was constructed (it still operates), official history of Aralsk began that very year.
In 1905 Russian merchants organized large fishing companies and formed a joint-stock firm in Aralsk, it was the start of fishery in the Aral. It was the time when ship-building plants were formed in Aralsk.
After Revolution the station “Aralskoye more (sea)” with the adjoining settlement received the name Aralsk. Since 1938 Aralsk together with Aralsky district became a part of newly formed Kzyl-Orda oblast of Kazakh SSR and turned into the town.
For the most part of 20th century Aralsk - a port on Aralsk Sea - was the center of fishing. Before Aralskoye Sea degraded which happened in the second half of 20th century, the population was busy in fishing and fish-processing. The maximum level of economic and social development of Aralsk was reached in 1970s, before the sea level began to go down rapidly.
It was the result of redirection Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya rivers to irrigate cotton by Soviets.
In Soviet time there were 3 closed military towns in Aralsk: Aralsk-5 (“Ural”) in the south of the city and Aralsk-6 (“Chaika” and “Beryozka”) 6 km to the north-west of the city. In 1992 the firing-ground was disbanded the staff of the towns Aralsk-5 and Aralsk-6 were transferred to Russia, the towns declined and were taken apart by Aralsk citizens.
About 5 km to the north-west of Aralsk there is an airport which was used for maintaining the firing ground on Revival Island as well as for maintaining space launching from space port Baikonur. The airport also carried out a lot of flights to other settlements of the region. At present the airport is used incidentally.
Aralsk city, Kazakhstan street
Aral city, Kazakhstan picture
Since 1990s Aralsk has officially been an area of environmental disaster. Due to unemployment young people has been leaving the city for Baikonur, Kyzylorda and other cities of Kazakhstan and Russia.
In 2005 the construction of a dam was finished close to the settlement of Kokaral and this resulted in the fact that water level in the northern part of Aralsky Sea (Maly Aral) went up and at present it reached 42 m. Fishing is being revived in Aralsky Sea area and boat-making is organized. Shortly the sea can approach Aralsk city and this could help in solving social problems of local population, creating new vacancies.
Aralsk city is now landlocked about 12 km from Aral sea. But it is less than the 100 km distance observed before the completion of a dam in 2005. The dam helped to rise water level of the sea. According to current situation it is possible that by 2009 Aral sea will be within 6 km of Aralsk city.
There are serious problems with health for the population of Aralsk city. They are caused by airborne toxic chemicals exposed to the wind by the retreating waters and, possibly, from chemical and biological agents unsafely stored on islands of Aral Sea. There is a high level of unemployment in Aralsk but possible returning of Aral Sea gives people a hope that their city will be once again a fishing port.