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Aral Sea
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Aral Sea

August 25, 2003
In July 2003, the Kazakhstan government, with funding from the World Bank, began a massive restoration project for the Aral Sea. Once the fourth largest lake on Earth, the Aral Sea has shrunk dramatically over the past few decades as the primary rivers that fed the Sea have been diverted and tapped nearly dry for cotton farming and other agriculture. The southern part of the Sea was fed by the Amurdar'ya and the northern part was fed by the Syrdar'ya, forming a large inland lake that moderated the region’s continental climate and supported a productive fishing industry.

The image at right was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite on August 12, 2003, and it shows the rapid retreat of the Sea’s southern half, now separated into a western and eastern half, both of which may face the same bleak future. Recent hydrographic surveys have revised downward the lifespan of the dying lake; complete desiccation could happen in as



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