The Shrinking Aral Sea

Published February 13, 2013
Updated January 16, 2018

The Aral Sea’s human-induced disappearing act has often been called one of the worst environmental disasters in the world, and rightly so. In one myopic swoop, 1960s Soviet leadership began to funnel out the region’s water supply for irrigation projects, and what came from it was only despair.

Shrinking Aral Sea GIF

Previously one of the world’s four largest lakes, the body of water soon shriveled up and took with it the economic and physical well-being of its nearby fishing-based communities. Not all is lost, though; in efforts to combat the problem, Kazakhstan established a dam project in 2005, the results of which have proved initially successful: by 2008 water levels had risen a significant amount, salinity had dropped, and fish were found in large enough amounts for the fishing industry to make a slow return.

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