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The Aral Sea used to be one of the largest lakes in the world, providing fresh water and fishing for many townships between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. However, it has been almost entirely drained by irrigation projects over the last fifty years, and only recently has it begun to replenish with environmental attention and dams.
The Soviet Union, deciding that they would try to grow crops and cotton in Uzbekistan, diverted the two major rivers that fed the Aral Sea. While the irrigation projects were successful, the Aral never recovered from losing these sources of fresh water. As the salinity of the Aral rose, freshwater fish died off, forcing people to move away. There is now an enormous, man-made desert in the place where the sea used to be. As the water receded, the USSR used the new desert to test weapons and dump waste, leaving the soil polluted and toxic. The fishing industry of the area vanished along with many plants and animals.
While some projects have been implemented to attempt the cleansing and refilling of the Aral Sea bed, improvement has been minimal. Studies and new projections are ongoing.
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