The Aral Sea, which before 1960 was the fourth largest lake in the world, has now split into four separate water bodies. This break-up and desiccation mainly resulted from upstream irrigation withdrawals from the two main influent rivers, the Syr Darya and and Amu Darya. The negative effects on the lake ecosystem due to declining water level and increasing salinity, as well as the profound socioeconomic and human impacts to the riparian populations, have been well documented. This paper focuses on the conservation and rehabilitation efforts for four remaining key water bodies of the Aral Sea: the Northern (Small) Aral and its ecosystem: the Southern (Large) Aral and its ecosystem; the delta and delatic water bodies of the Syr Darya; and the delta and deltaic water bodies of the Amu Darya. It is encouraging to note the reversal of the degradation in the Northern Aral after the creation of a dike at Berg's Strait in 1992. The dike washed out in 1999 but has been replaced with a new structurally sound dike. The water level in the Northern Aral has increased several meters and salinity is returning to levels that can sustain the pre-1960 ecosystem. However, much less success has been obtained regarding the Southern Aral which continues its retreat and salinization. There have been recent efforts also in the deltas and deltaic regions of the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya, the rehabilitation of Sudochie Lake probably being the most famous. These restoration projects are critiqued in this paper and recommendations for future actions are given.
Aladin, Nickolay V.; Plotnikov, Igor S.; Micklin, Philip; and Ballatore, Thomas
"Aral Sea: Water level, salinity and long-term changes in biological communities of an endangered ecosystem-past, present and future,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 15, Article 36.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol15/iss1/36