Magazine article Russian Life

Back from the Brink: Aral Sea Refilling Earlier Than Predicted

Magazine article Russian Life

Back from the Brink: Aral Sea Refilling Earlier Than Predicted

Article excerpt

The Aral Sea, once the fourth largest freshwater lake in the world, shrunk by 90 percent over the past four decades, due to massive Soviet water diversions for cotton cultivation. In 1990, the Aral split itself into northern and southern seas; by 1996, the smaller North Aral Sea had lost half of its surface area and three-fourths of its volume.

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An $85 million project by the World Bank and Kazakstan led to the August 2005 creation of the 13-kilometer-long Kok-Aral Dam, which separated the North and the South Aral Seas. As a result of the dam, the surface area of the North Aral Sea has grown by a third over the last year. The former port of Aralsk, 80 kilometers away from the sea in 2005, is now only 12 kilometers from the water's edge.

The project also included work to improve structures on the Syr Darya, which feeds the sea. As a result, the Syr Darya doubled its flow into the North Aral Sea, and the water level rose to 41. …

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