Sitting between the borders of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, the Aral Sea (IE Sea of Islands) was a veritable oasis in a parched arid desert-like land for centuries until the Soviet Union set in motion the unraveling of the ecosystem. In 1960, the government made the decision to begin siphoning off the water from the lake in order to irrigate desert land in the surround areas. It seemed like a great idea at the time. The lake was feed by a steady stream of fresh water from the annual snow melt. The lake, the fourth largest at the time, was well populated with fish and supported fishing communities.
However, the decision to tap into the water supply steadily began to shrink the size of the lake so that four decades later, the lake had seriously diminished in size. Temperatures which once were moderated because of the size of the sea now swung much hotter during the summer and much colder during the winter. The fishing industry collapsed. The farming communities once built from the lake water now lack a reliable source of clean water. NASA images create a time line that shows the destruction of the lake.
This year, an unseasonably dry season has further hastened the lakes demise so that it has now lost 90% of its original surface area. A percentage of the remaining water has problems with pollution and high salt content. The Dike Kokaral built in the northern part of the lake has preserved that area somewhat. This portion of the lake is supplied water from the Sur Darya River. For the remainder, large swaths of land have arisen which present health risks to the public. It is an epic environmental disaster and a sad commentary for a body of water that once occupied 68,000 sq. km. It now takes up less than 7,000 sq. km.