Turkmenistan, home of the Karakum Desert, is one of the most arid places on earth; it is also the globe's biggest water waster. But before other Central Asian states start tsk-tsking, a recently published report describes the entire region as a world "leader" in the inefficient use of water resources.
"I’m going for a swim," says Pelle Bendz, a 52-year-old Swede, as he rummages in the jeep for his bathing trunks. The other tourists look at him, bewildered. What’s left of the Aral Sea is reputed to be a toxic stew, contaminated by pesticides and other chemicals. But the weather’s hot and Bendz insists his travel agency told him “swimming” was part of the package.