Children run past ruined ships abandoned in sand that once formed the bed of the Aral Sea near the village of Zhalanash, in southwestern Kazakhstan (Reuters / Shamil Zhumatov) / Reuters
The basin of Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world, is now completely dry. The history of the sea, which derived its name from a Kyrgyz word meaning “Sea of Islands,” is revealed in a series of 10 videos.
1. The journey begins back in 1972, when the first images of the
shrinking Aral Sea were taken by a Landsat satellite. A
time-lapse of Asia reveals that many of the lake’s areas were
completely dry by 2009.
2. The ambitious Soviet project – a diversion of the two rivers
that fed into the Aral Sea – was only a short-term success. The
engineers decided that the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers would
irrigate the desert, where cotton could be grown for future
exports – but the implementation of the idea led to an ecological
3. Imagine yourself traveling from the small Kazakh city of
Aralsk to the Aral Sea, which is slowly and steadily dying.
Having turned into desert, it is now home to camels and abandoned
ships decorated with graffiti depicting the ghosts of sailors.
4. One of the world's worst man-made environmental disasters, the
Aral Sea was once the size of Ireland. RT’s Lindsay France went
to Kazakhstan to report on the ambitious attempts to rejuvenate
the sea with the help of dams.
5. The Aral Sea's demise also puts the health of people living on
its shores at risk. “You can’t see salt in the air, but you
feel it on the skin, and you can feel it on a tongue,” said
a local woman, whose husband suffers from chronic bronchitis. But
the salt isn’t the only threat; the wind also spreads dangerous
6. Scientific forecasts have long been claiming that the Aral Sea
is beyond salvation and will die within a decade. However, with
the water flowing back, there are hopes for Aralsk – which was
once a port city – and its economy.
7. The water level is growing, and fish are returning to the Aral
Sea – which was once home to the region's prosperous fishing
industry. “They brought the sea back to us,” a local
fisherman told RT's Lindsay France.
8. According to explorer and adventurer George Kourounis, who
visited parts of the ‘ghost’ Aral Sea, “the brisk
trade and friendly used bucks belie the intense hardship that
comes when your livelihood literally evaporates.”
9. Recent photos taken by NASA’s Terra satellite reveal the scale
of the Aral Sea's drought over the past 14 years, starting in
2000. The eastern basin of the Southern Sea, one of the two parts
of the Aral, has dried up for the first time in an estimated 600
10. Rescue efforts include more than just mere discussion, as
vegetation has been planted in the exposed seabed. However, many
projects are at stake due to a lack of funds or political will.