The last time Berdybai Nauryzbayev harvested rice was five years ago.
In the 1990s, farmers with his Sary Altyn agricultural association — the name is Uzbek for “white gold” — would regularly yield around four tons of rice from every 10,000 square meter plot of cultivated land. Rice harvests in Karakalpakstan were some of the most bountiful in Uzbekistan.
The soil has now deteriorated, become heavily salted, and people are moving away for a better life.
“It is five, six years in a row that we don’t get enough water. The canal that runs past my land used to bring us about 7,000-8,000 cubic meters of water. Now there is not a drop. Many lands are no longer in use and my fellow countrymen’s situation is truly dire. There is no cotton, no rice and no wheat,” Nauryzbayev told EurasiaNet.org.
The Chimbay district of the autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, where Nauryzbayev is from, is home to around 110,000 people. The entire area’s economy depends on farming and animal husbandry. No water means no economy.
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