Located between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, Aral Sea which was once the world’s fourth largest freshwater lake with an area of 68,000 km2 has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s.
Soviet Union irrigation projects in 1918 to irrigate the dessert, Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, the two rivers that feed the Aral Sea were diverted to cotton fields and rice paddies. Resulting Uzbekistan is one of the world’s largest exporters of cotton today, the project also has destroyed lives and once prosperous fishing industry along the former shores.
By 1998, the sea had dropped to 28,687km2, and became eighth-largest. By 2004, the sea had shrunk to 25% of its original surface area, and the water was fivefold saltier. By 2007 the sea’s area had shrunk to 10% of its original size, and the salinity of the remains of the southern part of the sea (the Large Aral) had increased to levels in excess of 100 g/L while the salinity of ordinary seawater is typically around 35g/L. In short, since 1960s Aral Sea has already lost about 60 of its surface area and 80 percent of its water.
When the there’s no influx of freshwater, the town lies miles from the shore, the salt being deposited onto the land. It means the ecosystem is nearly destroyed, people are now suffering from lack of fresh water and health problems, crops will never grow on the salty earth, and unemployment problems.
National Geographic http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/08/090805-aral-sea-vanishing-picture.html
Scientific American http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=reclaiming-the-aral-sea