Aral Sea

Once the world's fourth largest lake, the Aral Sea has shrunk so much that it has split into two separate lakes - the northern, or "little Aral Sea" and a larger one to the south. The shore line is now 100-150 km away from its original line of demarcation and can be reached only after a long day's drive over harsh terrain.

In the 1960s, Soviet planners built a network of irrigation canals and diverted waters from Syr Darya and Amu Darya to irrigate their cotton fields. Through over use the flow of the water to the sea stopped completely and the sea has lost its fishery and transport importance. Further more, the dying sea has brought ecological problems to all the states of Central Asia.

In 2004, 65,000 people lived in the Aral region, even though it had been deemed an unfit area in which to live. These people hope that the Aral Sea will become a living sea again. They dream that one day it will be the way it was before 1970.

Work is being done to restore the North Aral Sea. A dam was completed in August 2005 and, since then, the water level has risen and salinity has decreased.

The sea, which had receded almost 100km south of the port city of Aralsk, is now a mere 25km away. But the southern part of the Aral Sea, which lies largely in poorer Uzbekistan, has been largely abandoned to its fate.

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