The fate of the Aral Sea in Central Asia, once the fourth largest lake on the planet, today still provides a vivid and frightening reminder of what happens when man thoughtlessly intervenes with nature to devastating effect.
Considered by many ecologists to be the World’s greatest ecological disaster, the once great lake between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and the fishing communities it sustained, all but dried up and disappeared between the 1940s and 1980s.
Now the people that inhabit this once prosperous area that exported canned fish all over the world are unemployed and impoverished.
And all because the then Soviet government under Lenin and Stalin wanted to irrigate the desert to grow lucrative and exportable cotton and diverted the two rivers that fed into the lake in order to do so.
The lake’s tragedy and the suffering of its communities was highlighted last week at the launch in Lisbon of a 100 million US Dollar campaign sponsored by Roca and several NGOs which have formed a foundation to educate and address problems and issues surrounding the misuse and wastage of what will be the 21st century’s most valuable natural resource – fresh water.
Involving strategic partners Education without Frontiers (Educacíon Sin Fronteras), Intermón Oxfam, Roca and the Vicente Ferrer Foundation We are Water was launched at the city’s Campo Pequeno bullring by senior directors from Roca, considered a world leader in water efficient bathroom utilities.
Although not planning to concentrate initially on ecological problems involving water in Portugal, the We are Water Foundation has taken various Portuguese figures in the arts, such as actress and singer Maria de Medeiros, to support various international water projects in three continents.
The Foundation will also be taking its water sustainability awareness campaign around Portuguese schools and educational institutions.