National Geographic : 2015 Aug
76 national geographic • august 2015 It’s difficult to know exactly how or when these threats will unfold. The dam has been delayed many times since construction began in 2006, but the reservoir started filling in Jan- uary. And though plantation development has already begun, the scale of agricultural transfor- mation is not nearly as big as it could be. Avery and others point to the slow-motion disaster of the Aral Sea for a vision of what may come. The Aral was once the fourth largest in- land body of water on Earth, gleaming between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Beginning in the Soviet era, the two rivers that fed the lake were slowly siphoned off for cotton cultivation. By 2007 the Aral was nearly dead, its once rich ba- sin a wasteland of dust, its surface scattered with rusted fishing boats and flats of corrosive salt. An equally apocalyptic ending could be- fall Lake Turkana, destroying the livelihood of thousands of fishing people, turning them into desperate refugees. In the worst case, Avery said, the sugar and cotton plantations keep growing, and over many years the river diminishes, causing the lake to drop by 60 feet or more. Eventually, only two small lakes could remain. One of them would likely sit near Daas- anach territory. The other would lie farther south, isolated, saline, and shallow. Nearly all of the larger hippos had been hunted out, but plenty of crocs remained.