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Land and Resources, Environmental Issues

Syr Darya, Amu Darya, Aral Sea, Soviet system, defoliants

The environment of Tajikistan suffers from several decades of ecological mismanagement under the Soviet system. Tajikistan was one of the leading suppliers of cotton in the USSR. Pressured to fulfill export quotas, farm managers saturated the land with chemical fertilizers. Harmful levels of toxic pesticides, herbicides, and defoliants are now found throughout the food chain in Tajikistan. Excessive tapping of rivers for the irrigation of cotton crops has caused high levels of soil salinization, which in turn requires more intensive irrigation to maintain crop yields. Irrigation in Tajikistan directly affects the water levels of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, which both drain into the Aral Sea, a large saltwater lake that lies in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Overtapping of these rivers since the 1960s caused the Aral Sea to shrink to less than half its original size by the mid-1990s.

Article key phrases:

Syr Darya, Amu Darya, Aral Sea, Soviet system, defoliants, farm managers, chemical fertilizers, food chain, USSR, water levels, crop yields, herbicides, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, land, original size, turn


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