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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Going, Going, and now Gone

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, October 5, 2014/Categories: sustainability, environment

The  Aral Sea  was once the 4th largest lake on Earth and a remnant of an ancient inland ocean. It is now gone. Ill conceived bureaucratic engineering schemes during the Soviet Union era continued into contemporary Russia doomed the lake. It is now all but gone.

 
Aral Sea, 1985  (credit: NASA)                           Aral Sea, 1989-2014  (credit: Wiki-commons)

Water from two rivers that once flowed into the Aral Sea, the Amu Dar'ya and Syr Dar'ya was diverted for vast irrigation schemes in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Without other water sources, the lake began to dry up. Where once had been a thriving fishing industry, dry lake beds exposed dusty flats filled with toxic pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. And the intended agricultural uses were also compromised by increased salts in the soils from high evaporation levels.

A photo-animation provides a time-line of the environmental degradation process:


Aral Sea, 2000-2014 with 1960 Lake Shoreline (credit: NASA)

What has happened to the Aral Sea and surrounding environmental in less that 50 years is a cautionary tale of how 'best laid plans' and go bad. Similar water diversion schemes are still being designed with potentially similar outcomes. 

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