Aral Sea — environmental disaster

This is all that is left of what was the Earth’s fourth largest lake only 50 years ago.

From NASA’s Earth Observatory: Dust Over the Aral Sea.

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA/Terra MODIS

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union started diverting most of the water from the rivers that fed the Aral Sea to irrigation, primarily for cotton. This led to an environmental catastrophe that continues to this day. Effects of this include:

  • Drying up of the lake, which is now only 10% of its former size.
  • Increasing salinity of the lake. Only the northernmost basin still has low enough salinity to support fish. Most native species are gone.
  • Creation of dust storms blowing off of the dry lake bed. In addition to salt, this dust contains pesticides and industrial wastes, which cause health problems for residents living downwind.
  • Widespread unemployment and other economic hardships.

(For an animation of the shrinking of the Aral Sea, go to

Our actions as humans always have consequences. Some consequences can be predicted, others are unforeseen; some are small, and others are major. What will the consequences of our current activities be? What activities are we now involved in that will have long-term negative consequences in the future?

“A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Prov 22:3 NIV)

Grace and Peace

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