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The Aral Sea Disaster

P. Micklin
Published 2007 · Geography

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The Aral Sea is a huge terminal lake located among the deserts of Central Asia. Over the past 10 millennia, it has repeatedly filled and dried, owing both to natural and human forces. The most recent desiccation started in the early 1960s and owes overwhelmingly to the expansion of irrigation that has drained its two tributary rivers. Lake level has fallen 23 m, area shrunk 74%, volume decreased 90%, and salinity grew from 10 to more than 100g/l, causing negative ecological changes, including decimation of native fish species, initiation of dust/salt storms, degradation of deltaic biotic communities, and climate change around the former shoreline. The population residing around the lake has also been negatively impacted. There is little hope in the foreseeable future to fully restore the Aral Sea, but measures to preserve/rehabilitate parts of the water body and the deltas are feasible.
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