These pictures from NASA are being called “the quiet Chernobyl.” It is the Aral Sea as seen in 2000 and as seen this year. The massive decline of water levels is particularly evident from the black line showing the shoreline in the 1960s. In the United States and other cities, the world is facing a water crisis that is being given relatively low amount of attention. However, pictures like these show vividly our self-destructive impact on the environment.
The once vast central Asian lake was devastated during the Soviet period due to a water diversion project in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Now here is the shocker stat: the Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world. It now hold less than 10% of its original water volume.
The destruction of the lake created in 2000 two separate lakes known the Small and Large Seas. Within 12 months, however, the southern lake was gone. Fisheries and other business have collapsed and the blowing dust from the exposed lakebed is now a health hazard due to the agricultural chemicals that polluted the lake. It has changed the local weather — the loss of the moderating water mass has made the winters and summers harsher.
These pictures are the work of the team for the Terra satellite studies.
It is a cautionary tale for all countries, including this one, of the cascading problems associated with environmental pollution and industrial overuse.