“The Aral Sea, located between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, was once the fourth-largest lake in the world – an immense body of fresh water covering a surface area of 68,000 square kilometres.
Two port cities were located on it – Aralsk in Kazakhstan and Moynaq in Uzbekistan. Both featured thriving fishing communities and the lake itself held some 22 different varieties of fish – four of which could only be found in the Aral.
But then the Soviet Union decided to boost cotton farming by constructing dams on the two large rivers that flowed into the Aral Sea, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya rivers.
This diverted these two giant rivers away from the sea into the deserts further south to irrigate large tracts of land. It proved disastrous for the Aral Sea.
Soil erosion and evaporation of the waters meant that by the 1970s the Aral Sea had diminished by 20 per cent. By 1980, 30 per cent of the sea had vanished. That figure rose to 40 per cent in 1990. And today, 90 per cent of the Aral Sea has disappeared, becoming desert.
Fishermen were among those most affected by the drying-up of the Aral Sea. In 1960, total fish production from the sea was 45,000 tonnes. This dropped to 17,000 tonnes in 1970. The fish stock decreased further over the following years and families who had lived in Aralsk for generations, making their living from fishing, either migrated or had to find new ways to earn money.”
Read more: Aljazeera