Monday, April 12, 2010

Newsy: Aral Sea Set to Disappear

The Aral Sea has lost an estimated 90 percent of its water over the past three decades, and it's being called "one of the worst environmental disasters of the world."
"To look at it, you'd think boys like this had been raising their goats for thousands of years in this harsh desert landscape, but you'd be wrong. Thirty years ago, this desert didn't exist. This was the Aral Sea." (Live Earth)
Once the fourth largest freshwater lake in the world, the Aral Sea has been diminished to about one tenth of its original size. A personal visit to the area from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has drawn attention to the global water crisis.
The Daily Mail reports Ban called the depletion of the Aral Sea, "one of the worst disasters, environmental disasters of the world."
The cause of its disappearance? A video posted by The New York Times explains how human interference is to blame: "To its south, the banks of the Amu Darya are lined with agriculture fed by irrigation canals like these. Large areas of irrigation were developed on both rivers in the 1960s, diverting much of the Aral Sea's inflow to grow cotton, melons, and cereal grains. Irrigation like this created a deficit of water flowing into the sea."
And according to A Pakistan News, the loss of all that water comes with severe consequences: "The region’s once prosperous fishing industry has been virtually destroyed. ... The retreat of the sea has reportedly also caused local climate change, with summers becoming hotter and drier, and winters colder and longer."
Film@11 says bordering Uzbekistan has had economic incentives to ignore the disappearing sea: "The Aral Sea's been mighty handy in building its $1 billion cotton industry, and a dry sea does have certain advantages over a wet one. For example, those large sections of exposed sea bed are significantly easier to explore for potential oil and gas deposits."
Finally, a writer for the Daily Kos says the United States should take heed, especially when it comes to possible depletion of its five Great Lakes: "As parts of the U.S. continue to get drier and the climate warms up, there's going to be an increasing temptation to divert water from our own massive sources of fresh water for agriculture and survival. ... Don't imagine it can't happen here."

Writer: Tracy Pfeiffer

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