The Aral Sea is a terminal lake amidst the deserts of Central Asia. Its size and water balance are fundamentally determined by river inflow and evaporation from its surface. Until the 1960s, the Aral was the world’s fourth largest lake in surface area. Over the past four decades, this water body has rapidly and steadily shrunk as countries in the Aral Sea Basin have increasingly taken inflow from its two influents, the Syr Dar’ya and Amu Dar’ya, for expansion of irrigation. The Aral’s diminution has directly and indirectly led to an array of severe problems in the surrounding region, ranging from degradation of major terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to deterioration of human health and welfare. National, regional, and international efforts are underway to cope with these, but even their partial alleviation will be enormously costly and require many years. Full restoration of the Aral Sea to its former state is, at best, a remote possibility for the more distant future. However, rehabilitation of portions of it and adjacent areas that would partially restore former ecological functions and economic uses are feasible.



River Inflow Global Environmental Facility North Atlantic Treaty Organization Average Annual Discharge Terminal Lake 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Micklin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeographyWestern Michigan University (emeritus)KalamazooUSA

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