July 10, 2009

Eastern Aral Sea Receding

The eastern portion of the Aral Sea has shrunk by 80 percent since 2006, the European Space Agency reported on Friday.

Using Envisat images, the ESA revealed a massive decrease in shoreline between July 1, 2006 and July 6, 2009 for what was once considered the world's fourth-largest inland body of water.

The Aral Sea was split into two portions during the 1980s "“ the Small Aral Sea, found in Kazakhstan, and the Large Aral Sea, which is found in both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

By 2000, the Large Aral Sea had split into eastern and western portions. The eastern portion appears to have lost about four-fifths of its water since 2006, said the ESA.

"It appears to have lost about 80 percent of its water since the 2006 (image) acquisition, at which time the eastern lobe had a length of about 150 kilometers (93 miles) and a width of about 70 kms (43 miles)," said ESA.

The sea's southern portion is expected to dry out completely by 2020.

However, the Kok-Aral dike project of the World Bank and the Kazakhstan government is an effort to keep water from flowing from the northern portion into the southern sections of the sea.

"Since its completion in 2005, the water level has risen in the northern section by an average of 4 m," said ESA.

What's more, the evaporated sea has left about 40,000 square miles of dry, white salt known as the Aral Karakum Desert. The remaining salt is whipped up by sandstorms which cause heath problems as well as agricultural issues across the region.

Kazakhstan has received another loan from the World Bank that will allow for the construction of a second dam.


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