The Aral Sea

Essay by sophiejxx November 2014

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The Aral Sea and why it's declining in size

The Aral Sea is situated in Kazakhstan - Uzbekistan (the main basin countries are Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) Central Asia. It was formerly the Soviet Union. The two rivers that feed the Aral Sea are the Amu Darya in the south and the Syr Darya in the east. It has a surface area of 17,160 km2. The main function of the sea is in cotton production in central Asia. Here water is diverted from the rivers Amu Darya and Syr Dayra to irrigate monocultural plantations.

The sea has reduced in size; by 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into four lakes - 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. By 2009, the south-eastern lake had disappeared and the south-western lake had retreated to a thin strip at the extreme west of the former southern sea.

The maximum depth of the North Aral Sea is 42 m (138 ft) (as of 2008).

The main cause of the shrinking was by the diversion of the inflowing Amu Dar'ya and Syr Dar'ya rivers to provide irrigation water for local croplands, such as central asia's rice and cotton production. These diversions dramatically reduced the river inflows, causing the Aral Sea to shrink by more than 50%, to lose two-thirds of its volume, and to greatly increase its salinity. At the current rate of decline, the Aral Sea has the potential to disappear completely by 2020.

The ecosystems of the Aral Sea and the river deltas feeding into it have been nearly destroyed, due to the much higher salinity. The receding sea has left huge plains covered...