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In the 60s, the water of the great rivers? That of the Syr Darya region and the Amu Darya? that fed the Aral Sea was diverted to be able to spray millions of acres dedicated to the production of cotton and other crops, after a project undertaken by the Soviet Union.
The changes that this area has undergone in the last 14 years were documented through NASA satellite images that show that the lake has been drying out and that the dry conditions of 2014 caused the eastern lobe of the Aral Sea to dry out due to full.
"The loss of water made for cooler winters and hotter, drier summers. The damage peaked this year, when the eastern lobe of the South Aral Sea - which was actually the center of the original lake - dried up completely," reports NASA.
In addition to being considered one of the worst natural disasters, communities in the region that were previously engaged in fishing and agriculture are no longer able to carry out this activity, increasing unemployment and economic problems. It was also noted that the population near the Aral Sea has a high incidence of lung diseases and other pathologies.
“As the lake dried up, the fisheries and the communities that depend on them collapsed. The increasingly salty water became contaminated with fertilizers and pesticides. Dust blowing from the exposed lakebed, contaminated with agricultural chemicals, became a public health hazard, ”reported NASA.
Environmental impacts since the 1960s
- Between 1961 and 1970, the level of the Aral Sea fell at an average rate of 20 cm per year.
- In the 1970s, the rate of decline in the level almost tripled, reaching between 50 and 60 cm per year.
- In the 1980s, the sea level dropped an average of between 80 and 90 cm each year. - In 1987, the progressive decrease in the water level ended up dividing the lake into two separate volumes of water, the North Aral Sea and the South Aral Sea.
- In 1998, it had already descended to 28,687 km², the eighth lake in the world.
- In October 2003, the Government of Kazakhstan unveiled a plan to build a cement dam, the so-called Kokaral Dam, to separate the two halves of the Aral Sea.
- By 2001, the southern connection had been cut. The South Aral Sea had been divided into eastern and western lobes that remained loosely connected at both ends.
- In 2003, the South Aral Sea was disappearing faster than anticipated. The surface was only 30.5 meters above sea level (3.5 meters lower than had been anticipated in the early 1990s).
- Between 2005 and 2009, the drought is limited and then the flow of the Amu Darya rivers is cut off.
- Between 2009 and 2014 it was alternately between dry and wet. The water levels fluctuated annually. Dry conditions in 2014 caused the eastern lobe of the South Sea to be completely removed for the first time in modern times.