“Aral Sea Stories” is part of a larger project concerning the disap­pearance and partial restoration of the Aral Sea in Central Asia over the last sixty years. The recordings heard in the installation were mostly recorded in the village of Tastubek (2013 & 2015), beside the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan.

Sixty years ago the Aral Sea in Central Asia was the planet’s fourth largest lake. Today it has almost disappeared; a victim of vast Soviet irrigation schemes that divert too much water from its source rivers. It is one of the 20th century’s most significant, and least known, environmental disasters. However, since independence, Kazakhstan is successfully restoring a part of the Aral in its territory. Rising water levels and a reborn fishing industry are bringing obvious improvements to the local ecology and economy. It is a much needed positive example in the climate change debate and in re-thinking our relationship to the environment.

Since 2013 Peter Cusack made several trips to the Aral and its watershed to make field recordings, take photographs, talk to people and to try to understand the impact of water use and abuse on the environment and people of the region. The focus has been as much on the restoration of the sea as on its original disap­pearance and prioritises hearing as a way of investigation.

Photos Vera Marmelo. Sound recording Peter Cusack.