Evaluation of the Nature Conservation Potential of the North Aral Sea, Kazakhstan

Feasibility Study and Project Development for a Nature Reserve


In recent decades, the Aral Sea – once the world’s fourth largest lake, with an area larger than Switzerland – has lost more than 85% of its surface area. Due to this shrinkage, the North and South Aral Seas have become separate bodies of water with highly divergent developments. Since 2006, the water level of the North (or Lesser) Aral Sea has been rising again, and the water’s salinity is decreasing. A dam creates the basis for an efficient and healthy water use: agriculture and fisheries benefit from this development and create better living conditions for the local population. To further this development, the Michael Succow Foundation is working on a feasibility study for a nature reserve at the North Aral Sea.


The northwest coast of the North Aral Sea in particular captivates the eye with its richly varied combination of many landscape elements: At the plateau’s edge, steep cliffs drop down for up to 100 m to the sea level. Visitors can enjoy an impressive view over the vast expanse of the Lesser Aral Sea, which is regenerating itself despite its turbulent history. The cliffs host a large number of rare bird species. At the same time, however, the ecosystems around the Aral Sea are also threatened by extensive use as pastures and the uncontrolled development of dirt roads and other economic activities.


In a letter to the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety in November 2011, the Environmental Ministry of Kazakhstan outlined its plan to designate the coast of the Lesser Aral Sea as an area of special importance for biological diversity, either as a National Park or a Biosphere Reserve. At the same time, the Environmental Ministry expressed the desire for advice and cooperation during the designation and implementation of this new nature reserve on the Lesser Aral Sea.


In order to meet these requests, the Michael Succow Foundation for the Protection of Nature will pursue the following project goals within the scope of the proposed project:


Feasibility Study

  • Analysis of the general political conditions and the interests of various stakeholders,
  • Evaluation of the natural resource and development potential on the northwest coast of the Lesser Aral Sea between Aralsk and Kulandy,
  • SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) on the basis of the previously achieved results and discussions,
  • Conclusions regarding the feasibility of a nature reserve.


In case of a positive outcome of the feasibility study, a project for the implementation of a nature reserve on the Lesser Aral Sea will be developed.  The extent of this project and its planning will depend on the national partners’ interests. The project planning will result in an overview of further steps to be taken, which will serve as a basis for the application for additional funding and project implementation for both the national partners and the Michael Succow Foundation.


This feasibility study is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and the Federal Environmental Agency, within the framework of the Advisory Assistance Program for Environmental Protection in the countries of Central Asia, Central and Eastern Europe.


BMU    tl_files/img/logos_en/bfnlogo_en.jpg              UBA


Project coordination:

Sebastian Schmidt, e-mail: sebastian.schmidt(at)succow-stiftung.de


Further project information

A project information sheet is available for download here.