Climate Change, Irrigation, Killing Large Inland Asian Sea

Feb 26, 2024

The Shrinking of the Aral Sea

In Asia, a once-giant inland saltwater lake had blessed nearby communities with a shipping route, abundant farming, and fish that grew to be longer than three-feet. Now, it's drying up. The culprits are over-irrigation and climate change , scientists say. 

Before 1960, the Aral Sea, which straddles the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, had a surface area of 26,000 square miles. The Aral Sea was larger than Lake Michigan. Today, it's less than a fourth of that size. This is due to having split into three distinct lakes. Rusted hulks of old boats can be found perched in what is now desert. 

The United Nations has called the Aral Sea’s destruction “the most staggering disaster of the 20th century.” Scientists worry it’s one that could occur again across the world.

“If there is no water it will be (hard) for people to live,” Nafisa Baynizova told The Associated Press (AP). “Without water there is no life.” 

Baynizova lives on a farm near Muynak, Uzbekistan. She's dug a well in hopes of saving her crops. Many others left the region long ago. This happened after the lake’s once large supply of sturgeon vanished. Irrigation all but dried up the two rivers feeding the Aral Sea. This raised the salinity in the water and killed off the fish. Rising temperatures have ruined the glaciers that also fed the lake.  

The Uzbek and Kazakh governments and aid groups have tried by many means to save the lake. This includes planting vegetation to stave off the growing sand dunes and building pricey dams. But most agree the Aral Sea is not coming back.  

One 62-year-old man who goes by the name Adilbay told the AP: “Now there is nothing.”

Reflect: What effects would the disappearance of a sea have on the economics, culture, and overall well-being of the people living along its coast? 

The main idea of the article could best be described as how the Aral Sea and its surrounding communities have been affected by _______. Common Core RI.5.2; RI.6.2)
a. technology
b. political changes in Central Asia
c. over-irrigation and climate change
d. international trade
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