The Aral Sea used to be the source of life and livelihoods to millions of people. But due to mismanaged irrigation, large-scale cotton production and rising temperatures, the lake has shrunken to only ten percent of its original size since the 1960s. This has caused major challenges: fishing ports and farming lands are dry, drinking water is scarce, and dust and salt from the exposed seabed have increased the region's mortality rate. The UNDP is working to revive the region - economically, socially and environmentally - to improve the lives of millions.
UNDP is supporting Uzbekistan to turn the region into a ‘zone of environmental innovations and technology’ and uncover key barriers to systemic change – to ensure that people have sustainable livelihoods, good health, clean water and fresh air. A multidisciplinary team that includes innovation, technology and policy specialists is helping the government design a roadmap to operationalise the zone which will be followed by implementation of a portfolio of integrated interventions. In March 2020, the UNDP Accelerator Lab launched the crowdfunding initiative #GreenAralSea to test alternative financing instruments and engage stakeholders around the challenge. The funds will be handed over to a UNDP-led project in October 2020 which the platform will continue to support.