Dried-up Aral Sea springs back to life

Image: Google Timelapse: Aral Sea

Straddling the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the Aral Sea was once the fourth-largest saline lake in the world, an inland sea of 66,000 square kilometres. But in 1950, the Soviets diverted the two rivers that fed it in order to irrigate fields and grow cotton. Little by little, the Aral Sea dried up, ruining thousands of livelihoods. Since the construction of a dam in 2005, the water is slowly beginning to rise, and with it residents’ hopes. FRANCE 24 went to meet them.

earthrise – Aral Sea Reborn

Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth largest lake, a rich haven for fish, birds and other wildlife. It was also home to bustling fishing ports such as Aralsk. But starting in the 1960s, massive agricultural expansion saw much of the water from the two rivers that feed the lake diverted into thousands of canals to irrigate crops. This caused the Aral Sea to shrink by 70% and split into two.

The shrinking of the Aral Sea – “One of the planet’s worst environmental disasters”

The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters”. The region’s once prosperous fishing industry has been essentially destroyed, bringing unemployment and economic hardship. The Aral Sea region is also heavily polluted, with consequent serious public health problems. The retreat of the sea has reportedly also caused local climate change, with summers becoming hotter and drier, and winters colder and longer. Put together for the MSc in Environmental Technology.

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