Aral Sea – many of us haven’t even heard of this sea. But, it exists. Not only does it exists but actually went through massive turmoil. Because of human intervention and exploitation, the sea reached the brink of extinction but recent efforts for its revival have shown some success. In this article about Aral Sea facts, we will take a look at how it was formed and what happened after Soviets intervened. Let’s start…
Interesting Aral Sea Facts: 1-5
1. Aral Sea is a Salt Lake, which is present between Kazakhstan (South-West) and Uzbekistan (North-West). It is present towards the east side of the Caspian Sea. Dry Ustyurt Plateau is to the north and Kyzyl Kum desert is towards the west side of this lake. It is completely packed from all sides.
2. It cannot drain its waters into some sea or river. It has internal drainage system i.e., it is an endorheic basin (any waterbody which doesn’t drain its water but uses evaporation method to maintain the water balance).
3. It got its name from Aral-denghiz – a Kyrgyz language word. Aral Sea literally means “Sea of islands” because it has around 1000 islands surrounding it. It has got other names too! Arabs call it as Khwarazm or Khorezm. Russians call it as Sinyeye More.
4. It receives its water from only two rivers, Syr Darya and Amu Darya. These two rivers are, like Aral Sea, endorheic basins.
5. Until 1970’s, it was the fourth largest lake with 67,300 square kilometers in area, 420 km in length and 280 kilometers in width. It is a bit shallow, reaching a depth of 180 feet or 58 meters.
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Interesting Aral Sea Facts: 6-10
6. How did it originate? The place where there is Aral Sea now, was a big depression in the early Pleistocene Epoch and it started getting filled by water coming from the River Syr Darya and in the late Pleistocene Epoch, water from the River Amu Darya started filling the depression (earlier, River Amu Darya’s course was towards Caspian Sea and in late Pleistocene Epoch, the course of the river changed).
7. Because of the presence of continental climate (hot summers, colder winters and soil more or less like that of desert), and average rainfall of 100 mm in each year, life around the Aral Sea was difficult from the beginning.
8. During ancient period, it was very important as many ethnic cultures like Uzbeks, Kazaks, Tajiks etc. got settled and thrived near the sea.
9. From 1918, Soviet Union planned to grow cotton near the Aral Sea and acted on it in 1920’s. They drew water from the two rivers for irrigation and there was a steep decrease in the amount of inflow into the Aral Sea. This drawing of water from the rivers continued (amount of water drawn increased every year) till 1980’s.
10. Rainfall does very little to Aral Sea. It can supply roughly 1/5th of water that Aral Sea requires. The amount of inflow should be more or at least equal to maintain the water balance. When the inflow stopped and the water was being evaporated, it started to dry out.