aral sea before 1960
The flora and fauna were very diverse and included 38 different fish species. The lake played an important role in the development of the region’s economy and provided jobs for the population. In the past, the annual catch was 30,000-35,000 tons of fish and more than 80% of the coastal inhabitants were employed either in the fishing industry or in agriculture.
The lake has also helped to regulate the climate and mitigate severe weather fluctuations throughout the region, which has had a positive impact on the living conditions of the population, agriculture and the environmental situation. The air masses that invaded the region were warmed up over the water in winter and cooled down in summer.
The Aral Sea was fed by the two main rivers flowing through Central Asia: the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. In Soviet times, the construction of numerous irrigation canals throughout Central Asia began to promote agriculture. The water from the rivers was largely diverted from the rivers and used to irrigate the fields. As a result, less and less water reached the lake. Except in rainy years, both tributaries already seep away many kilometres before reaching the lake basin in the desert, called “Aralkum” by the locals.
aral sea today
One of the direct consequences of dehydration is climate change. Now the dry part of the lake has turned into a salt desert. The salt is spread by winds and thus pollutes the environment. In 2021 the lake covers only 8% of its original surface. The former harbour town of Muynak is now about 80km from the shore, which takes approximately 4 hours’ drive by off-road vehicle.