By Paul Goble
The northern sections of the Caspian Sea, adjoining the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, are rapidly drying up, the result of a decline in the influx of water from river systems especially in Russia and something that will in time make it difficult if not impossible for these countries to continue to use the sea as they have in the past.
This trend, which recalls what happened to the Aral Sea when it began its death spiral, has been accelerating over the last two decades. The satellite photographs showing it are available at gharysh.kz/saytru2022/novosti/novostdetalnoz_4_3151/ and are now discussed at zakon.kz/6399776-obnazhilos-morskoe-dno-masshtaby-obmeleniya-kaspiya-pokazali-iz-kosmosa.html).
Water levels have fallen especially far and fast in the parts of the Caspian adjoining Kazakhstan, but they are hitting Russian areas at the northern end of the sea as well. In time, unless more water is introduced into the Caspian, these areas will dry out and neither country will be able to use it for shipping or fishing as it does now.
The falling water levels could affect Moscow’s ability to move the Caspian Flotilla about as well as Putin’s hopes to use the sea as part of his north-south corridor to end run Western sanctions. But most immediately, the drying up of this sea will likely have negative health and economic consequences for those living along its former coastline.
That is because, again like in Central Asia with the death of the Aral Sea, the heavy metals that have been on the seabed will now be spread by the winds producing cancer and other diseases among these populations. Given that Russia is the primary source of these metals in the Caspian case, that will likely exacerbate tensions between Moscow and Astana. (On that issue, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/07/russian-rivers-dumping-heavy-metals.html).