The Aral Sea is located in the northwestern part of Uzbekistan and in the southwestern part of Kazakhstan.
In Uzbekistan it's located in the region of Karakalpakistan. Because the Aral Sea is shrinking this region has lots of environmental
and health problems.
The Aral Sea was the fourth largest lake in the world with an area of about 66,000 sq km. The
Aral Sea was divided into two parts: the Small Aral Sea in the north, and the Large Aral Sea in the
south. They were separated by the Kokaral Island and connected by the
narrow Berg Strait. The sea had more than 300 small islands, the largest of the islands,
the Kokaral, Vozrozhdeniya, and Barsakel'mes. It had 24 local species of fish and the sea supported a major fishing
industry in the 1950s. The Aral Sea also played an important role in transportation,
mainly between the port of Aral'sk in the north, and Muynoq, the major town in the south.
In the 1960s the Soviets started growing cotton crops in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan's dry climate made it
necessary to divert water from the main rivers of Uzbekistan: the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, and their inflow to
the Aral Sea decreased. During the 1980s the inflow was only 10 percent of what it was in the 1950s. The loss of inflow,
combined with evaporation and little rainfall, caused the shoreline to recede, and in 1987 the sea's southern and
northern parts separated, although they are still connected at times by a channel. By the end of 1996 the Aral Sea's
total area had decreased by 57 percent, its water volume also decreased.
The water level of the sea, which receives 80 percent of the flow from the Amu Darya dropped 15-18 meters.
The Salt level in the Aral Sea rose to that of the ocean.
The dying sea has an effect on the people as well as the plant and animal life, especially in the region of Karakalpakistan.
Because Uzbek soil was not good for growing cotton crops, there were huge numbers of pesticides used on the fields and
the runoff went into the rivers. This affected people living along the rivers. Diseases like anemia, cancer, tuberculosis,
and allergies are frequent. Lots of children are born with defects. In the first years of the cotton project
diseases like the typhoid fever, viral hepatitis, TB, and throat cancer in many areas was as high as three
times the national average. Most of it happened because of the reduction in the quality and quantity of pure drinking
water, and the spread of toxic dusts and the worsening of the regional climate all resulting from the Aral Sea disaster.
The really big problem about the Aral Sea disaster is that it can't be prevented. The only way to stop it is for
Uzbekistan to stop producing cotton, but it can't because its economy depends on it. One thing they could do to
slow the process down is at least close the canals' tops because, before the water gets to the fields,
about half of it evaporates. The Aral Sea is a huge disaster that affects the whole of Uzbekistan and I hope that
one day maybe we can find a way to fix it.