Before the 1980s the world’s fourth largest inland lake was the Aral Sea, on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. At around 68,000 square kilometres, it was nearly the same size as Ireland, complete with thousands of islands, thriving fishing communities and the lakeside cities of Muynak and Aral’sk.
Buy the late 1960s huge amounts of water were being diverted from the Aral sea for the irrigation of Soviet cotton fields, which also continued in the post-Soviet era. By 2008 the Aral sea had largely disappeared, with less than 10% remaining, compared to its original size.
The rusting hulks of former fishing vessels now sit in the desert, miles from the nearest water.
Salinity in the water that remains has massively increased, and much of the surrounding area is badly affected by pollution from former agriculture and industry, with large dust storms also now common.
But since 2005 a limited recovery has been underway for the northern Sea area, following the construction of a new dam, with funding from the World Bank. Unfortunately no similar improvement is taking place in the south.
Photo by Staecker, via Wikicommons