Aral Sea

Million years ago, the northwest of present-day Uzbekistan and southern part of the Republic of Kazakhstan were covered with immense sea. When the water receded, they left behind a vast plain of highly saline soils. One of the remains of an ancient sea was the Aral Sea, the fourth largest inland sea in the world.

The Aral Sea is an inland saltwater sea. It is formed by two rivers, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya. The natural balance of the amount of salt in the sea was due to the flow of freshwater of these two rivers.

In the 1960s, the head of the Soviet government decided to grow more cotton and rice in Uzbekistan due to its exceptional climate and the people who work hard. Government officials ordered to hold new plants in places that were in the desert area, while so much water has been taken from two rivers that feed the Aral Sea.

New buildings were constructed as well as hydropower dams on the rivers and 850 km of large canal systems were created to "feed" lands. When the irrigation system was completed, millions of hectares on both sides of the main canal were flooded.

For the next 30 years, the Aral Sea sharply declined in the water level, the shoreline receded, and the salt level increased. The marine environment has become hostile to marine life, killing the animals and plants of the region. As the water rose increased and the salt level in the sea also raised only to make fishing industry suffer.

The Soviet system was based on the construction of a series of dams on the two rivers to create reservoirs, including 40,000 km of roads will finally dug water to divert. Fields flourished, but with such a vast area of monoculture, farmers had to use a lot of chemical pesticides. Due to irrigation, salt was drawn to the surface and accumulated in the air. When the dam was built in Tahaitash on the Amu Darya River near the city of Nukus, there was no water in the river to flow into the Aral Sea. To the surprise of people of Moynak, the Aral Sea began to decline.

First, they suggest that this is a temporary condition and dredged on back side of boats to continue to navigate on the sea shore. But the effluent, which reached the sea, had penetrated a deadly mixture of salt and pesticides in cotton fields. Fish population has declined remarkably and when the sea continued to move away, boats were left to lie like a huge floating gigantic statue on the sands that were once the sea floor.

The Aral Sea was a rich source of fish. About 20 types have been once identified by biologists, including Sturgeon and Catfish. Moynak city, located by the sea, was fishing village that also attracted tourists with its seaside sights. In 1950, the Soviet Union decided to cultivate cotton in the great plains. The decisive factor of this happened to be water.

Moynak today is deserted city located more than a hundred kilometers from the sea. The only reminder of once thriving fishing vessels and old fish plants now lost for rust. The sea has been reduced to two-fifths of its original size and is currently ranked 10 in the world. The water level has dropped 16 meters, and the volume was reduced by 75 percent, which is equivalent to the loss of water in both lakes Erie and Huron. The effect to the environment was disastrous as well as to the economics, to the social life and to the health of people living in the region. All of the 20 known species of fish in the Aral Sea have disappeared, unable to survive the toxicity of the salt mud.