File:AralSea(1997) NASA STS085-503-119.jpg
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English: STS085-503-119 Aral Sea, Kazakhstan August 1997 Once the fourth largest inland body of water in the world, the Aral Sea, as seen in this southeast-looking view, has shrunk to a fraction of its former size and is now the eighth largest inland body of water in the world. Water has been diverted to cotton irrigation since the late 1950’s from the two rivers that feed the Aral Sea, the Amu-Darya in the south, and the Syr-Darya in the northeast. Pollution of the waters of the Aral Sea from heavy usage of the fertilizers and pesticides has been occurring since the 1960’s. Also occurring was runoff of chemicals used in chemical weapons testing on the Ust-Jurt Plateau (right center of the image) by the former USSR military, which was halted in the mid 1980’s. Salinity of the Aral Sea has tripled since 1960 and nearly twenty species of wildlife and vegetation have become extinct. The Aral Sea, because of the decline, has become two separate bodies of water. The Little Aral Sea, or the northern portion, has begun to rise due to the construction of a small dam to hold the water in and slow the rate of evaporation. Irrigated land in the Syr-Dayra River Valley has declined somewhat in the 1990’s, thus allowing water to reach the Little Aral Sea. The dam in the Little Aral Sea is being constructed and financed by the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the small cites that once bordered the Aral Sea. Water levels in the Little Aral Sea have risen by as much as 10 feet (3 meters) during the mid and late 1990’s. With no water reaching the southern Aral Sea through Amu-Darya, some scientists predict that this portion of the sea will disappear by the year 2020.
This file is in the public domain in the United States because it was created by the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, of the NASA Johnson Space Center. NASA copyright policy states that "NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted". (NASA copyright policy page or Conditions of Use of Astronaut Photographs). Photo source: STS085-503-119.
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