Crossing the Oxus

By Clifton Meador
Atlanta: Nexus Press, 2001. Edition of 75.

7 x 11"; 24 pages. Photographs taken by Meador in Uzbekistan in 2000.

This is "a little book about the drying up of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan." The understated tone is typical. The Aral Sea was once the fourth largest body of fresh water on the planet. No longer.

This cautionary tale, told in photographs and Meador's sensitive but incensed text, recounts the plight of the Oxus River, which "in classical times … was the boundary of the known world." Soviet mega-planners determined that Uzbekistan would be the cotton producer of their empire and that the Oxus River (now called the Amu Darya) would be diverted for vast irrigation projects. When Meador crossed the river in the year 2000, it a "vanished river" — victim of "one of the largest and most horrifying ecological disasters in the world."