Northern Sections Of Caspian Sea Rapidly Drying Up – OpEd


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 and are now discussed at

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

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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