Drained for irrigation, this huge water body is now ranked amongst #TheWorst environmental disasters.
The Aral lake was so vast that it was called a sea and now a huge part of it has dried up - for the first time in 600 years. This sea, supported a thriving commercial fishing industry of about 60,000 fishermen from as early as 1960. By 1977, the fish harvest was reduced by 75%, and by the early 80's the commercial fishing industry as a whole was eliminated. This also had a noticeable effect on the region's climate. Due to the rapid change in condition, the farmers have switched from cotton crop to rice, which demands more diverted water.
A secondary effect of the reducing Aral sea's overall size is the rapid exposure of the lake bed. Strong winds blowing across this part of Asia routinely pick up and deposit thousands of tons of now exposed soil year after year. This not only contributed significantly to the reduction in superior quality breathing air for nearby residents, but has also affected the crop yields due to heavily salt-laden particles falling on arable land.
The area is driven by poverty and their dependence on exports, so officials have failed to take any preventive action & the Aral continues to shrink. Some of this can also be attributed to less rain and snow in the Pamir Mountains, whose runoff feeds the Amu Darya. The Aral Sea's original surface area was around 26,000 square miles (67,300 square kilometers) and has been at the centre of trade for decades. The Aral Sea was fed by the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. Irrigation projects from the 1960s started the diversion of water for irrigation which has ultimately brought down the mighty Aral Sea to a trickle.