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It had dried up rapidly since the 1960s, when the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers were diverted by Soviet Union irrigation projects. By 2004, the Aral Sea had shrunk to a shocking 25% of its original surface area, and a nearly 500 percent increase in saltiness had killed most of its natural flora and fauna.
By 2007 it had declined to a mind-blowing 10% of its original size.
The small body of water then split into three separate lakes, two of which are too salty to support fish or wildlife.
The amount of water the Aral Sea lost in 30 years is the equivalent of completely draining Lakes Erie and Ontario. This is truly an environmental catastrophe. Thankfully in January 1994 Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan signed a deal to pledge 1% of their countries’ budgets to helping the sea recover.
This environmental calamity was the focus of "Aral Sea," part of the Live Earth Films series. Watch it below:
Click here for some sobering images of the area today.