The Aral Sea was once one of the four largest lakes in the world, but now the Aral Sea is almost permanently gone because of one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters.
According to Newsmax, the Aral Sea could be gone forever from central Asia by 2020. Two rivers which once flowed into the lake have been diverted for irrigation purposes many years ago and now the Aral Sea is shrinking from dehydration.
An agricultural irrigation program in the 1960s developed by the Soviet Union diverted the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya rivers to other lands in the region. The diverted water from the two rivers was mostly used to grow cotton.
A statement from NASA Earth Observatory noted the decline of the Aral Sea, a rebound, and dangerous fluctuations more recently.
“The diversion began the lake’s gradual retreat. By the start of the Terra series in 2000, the lake had already separated into the North (Small) Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and the South (Large) Aral Sea in Uzbekistan. The South Aral had further split into western and eastern lobes.”
The statement went on to say, “The eastern lobe of the South Aral nearly dried in 2009 and then saw a huge rebound in 2010. Water levels continued to fluctuate annually in alternately dry and wet years.”
The Aral Sea has gone through rough dry seasons before, including an estimated 5.5 million years ago. However, according to NASA, “for the first time in modern history, the eastern basin of the South Aral Sea has completely dried.”
Jobs & Hire states the Aral Sea has lost about 90 percent of its original size. A large part of the Aral Sea once had a flourishing fishing trade, and now the fishing trade is all but a memory. Unemployment and economic hardship flooded in when the water dried up, and the rest of the Aral Sea region is contaminated and unhealthy for the public.
Although Kazakhstan built a dam in 2005 to try and replenish and save the lake, an ongoing drought has depleted the Aral Sea more.
— NASA Earth (@NASA_EO) September 30, 2014
NASA predicts the Aral Sea will completely disappear if nothing is done to reverse the damage inflicted upon the area.
[Image via Aral Sea Foundation]