Eastern Aral Sea has shrunk by 80% since 2006: ESA

Jul 10, 2009
Satellite image shows the dramatic retreat of the Aral Sea?s shoreline. The eastern lobe of the disaster-struck Aral Sea seems to have shrunk by four-fifths in just three years, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

The eastern lobe of the disaster-struck Aral Sea seems to have shrunk by four-fifths in just three years, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Friday.

It released an overlay of photographs taken by one of its observation satellites, Envisat, on July 1 2006 and July 6 2009.

Once the world's fourth-largest inland body of water but now a byword for ecological calamity, the Aral Sea has been retreating over the last half-century after rivers that fed it were diverted for Soviet cotton irrigation projects.

Around two decades ago, it split into the Small Aral Sea in the north, located in Kazakhstan, and the Large Aral Sea, shared by Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

The horseshoe-shaped Large Aral Sea began to split into eastern and western lobes, in 2000.

"The eastern lobe retreated substantially between 2006 and 2009," ESA said in a press release.

"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 kilometres (93 miles) and a width of about 70 kms (43 miles)."

The Large Aral Sea is expected to dry out completely by 2020, it added.

Efforts are under way to save the far smaller northern part, thanks to the Kok-Aral dike, a project of the World Bank and Kazakhstan government.

Since the barrier was completed in 2005, water level in the northern section has risen by four metres (13 feet).

The desiccation of the Aral is considered by some experts to be the worst man-made ecological catastrophe ever, but one that also has had huge implications for human well-being.

Fishing and other industries that once thrived have been destroyed. Each year, tens of thousands of tons of salt-laced dust blow from the dried-up seabed, much of it contaminated by , affecting health.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Monitoring heavy metals using mussels

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Experts mull future of Thames Barrier

Mar 24, 2008

Sea levels are rising much faster than when the Thames Barrier was designed, and British officials are looking ahead to new consider flood defenses.

Scientists look at global sea level rise

Oct 12, 2005

Scientists from nine nations are involved in the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program's Tahiti Sea Level Expedition, investigating global sea level increases.

Recommended for you

Monitoring heavy metals using mussels

3 hours ago

A research team in Malaysia has concluded that caged mussels are useful for monitoring heavy metal contamination in coastal waters in the Strait of Johore. Initial results indicate more pollution in the eastern ...

Climate change report identifies 'the most vulnerable'

4 hours ago

Extreme weather events leave populations with not enough food both in the short- and the long-term. A new report by the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) at the School of Geography and the Environment ...

Obama readies climate change push at UN summit

7 hours ago

President Barack Obama will seek to galvanize international support in the fight against climate change on Tuesday when he addresses the United Nations, with time running out on his hopes of leaving a lasting ...

New toxic spill traced to Mexico mine

7 hours ago

Civil protection authorities have confirmed new toxic spills in northwestern Mexico, where a massive acid spill from a copper mine contaminated waterways.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

deatopmg
3 / 5 (8) Jul 10, 2009
Exactly what one would expect from a totalitarian regime, left or right.
Dhanne
5 / 5 (1) Jul 11, 2009
This is the proof that humans are mostly idiots.
Choice
not rated yet Jul 12, 2009
This is where we are all headed unless we start getting smarter. Another example of distant natural resource exploitation by Europeans and of the scourge which is industrial scale agriculture as currently practiced.