Image acquired 2010
The Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world. Situated in an otherwise desert region of Kazakstan and Uzbekistan, two rivers, the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya, carried snowmelt and rainfall from distant mountains to where they pooled in the Aral Basin. The Aral Sea supported farming in the river deltas and a fishing industry up through the first half of the 20th century.
Then in the 1960s, the Soviet Union converted the local economies to cotton production and diverted the two rivers to irrigate the fields. With no other major source of water, the Aral Sea has been evaporating and shrinking ever since. After 50 years, the lake’s area is 25 percent of its original size and it holds just 10 percent of its original volume of water.
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