Every year the Aral Sea shrinks a little more due to 40 years of agricultural policies that let farmers in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan divert water from the Amy Darya and Syr Darya rivers. The Sea is now so shallow that sediment appears almost ever-present, making the waters look milky tan and green. In addition to being shallow, the waters are highly polluted from increased salinity (it is nearly 2.5 times as salty as the ocean) and human activities. Further complicating the problem are the now extensive salt beds surrounding the Sea; because there is no vegetation to hold the salt down, winds pick up it and dust sediment, creating dust storms that have negative effects on the residents of the region and the local climate.
The peninsula separating the two halves of the Sea was an island as early as 1996, and in 1960 was completely submerged. Technically a lake and not a sea, it was once the world's fourth largest. Today, it is eighth, at best. This is a true-color Terra MODIS image from April 8, 2005.
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