Photos of a Dying Sea

Located in Central Asia, the Aral Sea is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north and west and by Uzbekistan to the south and east.  It once was the fourth-largest inland sea, or salt-water lake, in the world, fed by the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers.  Now, it is a mere fraction of its former self, reduced to less than a quarter of its original size.  Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were part of the former Soviet Union and attained independence in the 1990’s, as the Soviet regime collapsed.  In the 1960’s, the Soviet government began damning up the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers, as part of an expansive farming project.  But, the consequences were dire for the Aral Sea.  As its source waters were siphoned off, the Aral began to shrink, leaving a vast desert that has proven toxic for residents living near its former coastlines.  Efforts by Kazakhstan to restore as much of the sea are ongoing, but the situation is still dire.  Here are some photographs showing the refuse left behind, including plenty of ships that got stranded as the waters receded.

Locomotive Rock, seen here from the Ust-Urt Plateau on the western side of the South Aral Sea in September of 2005, used to be mostly underwater. Before the Aral Sea receded, Kazakh fishermen would climb the rock and leave fish as an offering for a good catch.

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