One of the planet's worst environmental disasters is technically ongoing with very little efforts to make people and government aware of it: since it involves the most important resource on Earth – water – its magnitude is even more overwhelming.
The Aral Sea was once one of the largest lakes in the world: most of our printed atlas still report its size as it was before the sixties, when the entire surface of 26.000 square miles began to shrink: since the surrounding areas were mostly desert, the Soviet government started to transform the environment by diverting the course of the two main rivers who fed the Aral, in order to grow cereals and cotton.
The lake was doomed: thirty years later the surface of the water measured only one third of its original size. The fishing industry, settled on both northern and southern coastlines, was destroyed. Unemployment and poverty changed the economy of the entire region. Lack of water and the emerging of chemical waste from the ground of the lake brought pollution and health issues.
Today less than 10% of the lake surface is still visible: reaching the coastline requires one day on a cross-country vehicle, driving through the desert from the former fishing port of Moynaq, where I started my first visit to the area.
Keywords: aral, lake, urss, soviet, union, disaster, envinronment, water, resource, drought, uzbekistan, kazakhstan