The Aral Sea

Thursday, 5th January 2006 by

Sandwiched between Kazakhstan to the north and Uzbekistan to the south, this is the dying Aral Sea.

Wikipedia says:

Since the 1960s the Aral Sea has been shrinking, as the rivers that feed it (the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya) were diverted by the Soviet Union for irrigation.

In 1960, the Aral Sea was the world's fourth-largest lake, but today it has lost 80% of its volume. You can clearly see how much the water has receeded recently by comparing the satellite image with Google's own map view (there's no high-resolution imagery, otherwise we might be able to see some abandoned ships), and even more so by comparing it to this satellite image taken in 1985.

To make matters even worse, the ecosystem of the Aral Sea has been nearly destroyed due to high levels of salinity, industrial projects and fertilizer runoff. Not to mention a biological weapons laboratory on the Vozrozhdeniya Island...

For more information on this fascinating environmental catastrophe, make sure you read the Wikipedia page.

Thanks to Daniel Pereira, Phil Gross and Pablo Bleyer.