Posts Tagged ‘Aral Sea drying up’

Aral Sea, once world’s 4th largest lake, dries up

October 4, 2014


Aral Sea in 2000 and in 2014

Satellite photos of the Aral Sea in 2000 and in 2014

The Aral Sea, once the world’s fourth largest lake, has dried up.  NASA satellite photographs show what has happened.

Once the Aral Sea supported 24 species of fish, according recent articles in The Guardian, and was surrounded by fishing villages and lush woodlands and wetlands.

In the 1950s, the Soviet government began to divert water from the two main rivers feeding the Aral Sea to irrigate cotton crops in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and the water level began to fall.  Uzbekistan still uses large amounts of irrigation water for its cotton crops.  NASA scientists see little hope that sea levels would recover in any case.  Lack of rain and snowfall, possibly related to global climate change, also are a factor.

Although the rivers feeding the Aral Sea are fresh water, the Aral Sea itself is salt water.  The Guardian reported that the drying up of the Aral Sea exposed the bottom, which is covered with salts and with fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide residues that were washed into it over the years.

The fishing villages have disappeared, and people in the vicinity reportedly suffer serious health problems from wind-borne toxic dust from the lake bottom.

Kazakhstan built a dam in 2005 which evidently has saved a tiny portion in the north.

All this is an example of what happens when you tamper with natural systems—or any complex system—without considering the consequences.