Aral Sea Facts

Aral Sea Facts
The Aral Sea is located in Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, in Central Asia. It was once the fourth largest lake in the world but due mostly to irrigation it has shrunk by 70%, from 67,000 square km in 1960 to 30,000 square km by 1996. The major river tributaries to the Aral Sea, the Syr Darya, and the Amu Darya, were used for the creation of irrigation canals in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. This has literally been starving the Aral Sea for water. A dam was built in 2005 in Kazakhstan to help replenish and preserve the Aral Sea. It is contributing to a rise in water level and a drop in salt content, which is helping to increase the number of fish able to live in the Aral Sea again.
Interesting Aral Sea Facts:
The Aral Sea existed for approximately 5.5 million years before people began to destroy it in the 20th century.
In the 1960s the Russian government decided to irrigate water from the two main rivers feeding the Aral Sea in order to provide water for agricultural use.
Although global warming is contributing to the Aral Sea's demise, the major cause is the lack of water inflowing due to irrigation.
The Russian government thought that diverting the water for irrigation to grow cotton would make it a lot of money. It did for a while.
Because the Aral Sea relies on groundwater as its major inflow, diverting the river tributaries nearly caused the Aral Sea to dry up.
The Aral Sea basin (area that is drained by the Aral Sea) includes Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan.
The Aral Sea shirking has been referred to as the worst environmental disaster on earth, destroying the fishing industry, negatively affecting public health, the economy, and the way of life in the region.
The majority of the water diverted for irrigation from the Aral Sea is lost to evaporation or drained away before it can be used for agriculture.
As the Aral Sea decreased in size the amount of salt in the water grew and the number of violent sand storms increased. These factors have greatly affected the residents in the region.
Other factors contributing to the demise of the Aral Sea region is due to toxic chemicals, weapons testing, and runoff from fertilizer and pesticides.
Health problems common to those living in the Aral Sea region include cancers, digestive issues, lung disease, liver, kidney, and eye diseases, and drug-resistant tuberculosis.
In some regions that used to be under water, abandoned ships lay on the ground. Some have been lying there for more than 20 years.
The Aral Sea used to support a healthy population of muskrats, which are now gone. Muskrat trapping was a major industry, in addition to fishing.
The demise of the Aral Sea has led to the demise of the economy and health of the region.
Most experts do not believe that the Aral Sea will ever be restored to its original size and health. Despite efforts to restore it, Uzbekistan continues to divert a major portion of the tributary river water to cotton production.

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