In this chapter, the title theme of “Disaster by Design” is explored and justified. Even from early times, the Aral Region was subject to alterations of natural conditions due to human intervention, often deliberate and designed. After the final conquest by Russia, the region became a fixed colony as part of the Soviet Union, ripe for exploitation characteristic of the Soviet approach to nature broadly and to stigmatized areas specifically. The Aral region was selected for irrigated cotton and other cultivation even though the consequences for desiccation of the sea, desertification, and salinization were understood. The decision was so calculated that even a cost–benefit analysis was offered to show that the Aral fishery was worth but a fraction of the cotton potential. The destruction of the region was made possible by a Soviet system of central planning and peripheral control. The brief glimmer of hope for the region evidenced during glasnost was the only moment where the Aral's fate was not sealed. The outcome is a model of ecological disaster by design, an environmental injustice, and an indication of the abusive nature of authoritarian power.
Edelstein, M. (2012), "Disaster by Design: The Multiple Caused Catastrophes of the Aral Sea", Edelstein, M., Cerny, A. and Gadaev, A. (Ed.) Disaster by Design: The Aral Sea and its Lessons for Sustainability (Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Vol. 20), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 105-151. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0196-1152(2012)0000020018Download as .RIS
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