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Aral Sea dried: NASA’s Earth Observatory

Oct 4, 2014 15:15 IST

NASA’s Earth Observatory in October 2014 claimed that Aral Sea, the world’s fourth-largest lake of its time has dried and is at the verge of vanish. The observatory says that the lake tucked between two former Soviet states in central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is now just a vast toxic desert and its disappearance has also affected the local climate. Now, the summers of the area are getting hotter, whereas, the winters are colder.


Recently the Earth Observatory posted some images that show the extent of the lake’s recession over past 14 years. The released image of Aral Sea was taken by NASA’s Terra satellite in August 2014 and was released on 2 October 2014.

The damage was recorded the most in 2014, as the eastern lobe of the South Aral Sea that is the center of the original lake has dried completely. The researchers have predicted that Aral Sea will be vanished completely by 2020.

About Aral Sea
Once the Aral Sea was spread in an area of 68000 square kilometer (26300 square miles) but has steadily shrunk since the 1960s. By 2007, the lake declined to 10 percent of its original size by splitting into four lakes, namely the North Aral Sea, the eastern and western basins of the once far larger South Aral Sea and one smaller lake between the North and South Aral Seas. Further, by 2009, the southeastern lake had disappeared and the southwestern lake had retreated to a thin strip at the extreme west of the former southern sea.

image
Cause of its disappearance
Aral Sea located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was fed by two rivers, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, till 1960s. These two rivers brought snowmelt from mountains to the southeast and local rainfall to the sea. But in 1960s, the erstwhile Soviet Union diverted the water of the two rivers through canals and dams to supply agriculture of cotton and other agricultural products in the region, leading to stoppage of water into Aral Sea.

With this stoppage of water into the sea by the rivers has resulted into recede of the sea although its salinity level kept on rising. On the other hand, the lake bed got contaminated due to chemical and fertilizer runoff. The salty dust that blew from the exposed lakebed became a public health hazard and degraded the soil, after which the croplands were flushed with larger volumes of river water. This flushing of volumes of water into croplands affected it more.

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