Sacha Baron Cohen would be happy to learn the Kazakhstan government has landed a multi-million dollar loan from the World Bank, much of it thanks to Borat. As he would likely say, "The plan to save Aral Sea for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan."
The drying up of the Aral Sea, the planet's fourth largest inland body of water, has been an environmental horror show . It's also been a blot of shame on the UN's record. Year after year, the UN and World Bank turned visually impaired eyes to this man-made disaster, passively taking successive Russian governments' word they were addressing the problem. Even with damming visual evidence like this iconic National Geographic image of a large fishing vessel resting on the dried and cracked sea bed, Russia and the UN dithered and dodged what was to be done.
Once Kazakhstan went independent, Russia was able to wash its hands and walk away, leaving the problem to the Kazakhs, who were ill-equipped to deal with a situation not of their creation and in which they had little choice.
The slow death of the Aral dates back to the 1970s, when the Soviet government diverted two main rivers feeding the sea to irrigate cotton fields in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Starved of water, the sea began to shrink.
The desert spread, changing the climate, destroying the economy and the ecosystem, eradicating species and forcing thousands of people to leave the area.
The arrival of the 21st century meant little to the fate of the Aral.
Everyone agreed it's a really bad thing but both financial and expert help kept coming in bits and pieces as villages died and fishermen turned to scratching a living from the soil.
Kazakhstan and the fate of the Aral remained on the back burner. Until Borat. The UK comic satirist's mockumentary placed Kazakhstan, for better or worse, squarely in the global spotlight.
It wasn't the best image Kazakhstan officialdom cared to see of their country, but sources say they've gotten over it and even invited Borat to visit, maybe shoot some footage in the real deal, generate more global media for Kazakhstan.
The Kazakh government has shown an unexpected level of media savvy, and are busy using their Borat-ization to guilt out the moneymen at the UN and World Bank. They're laying down the classic riff on turning lemons into money-making lemonade and casting Borat as comedic environmental warrior for greater benefit glorious planet..
No word yet as to when the funds from the multi-million dollar loan will actually be available but it can't happen too soon.