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Muynak is a city in northern Karakalpakstan in western Uzbekistan. Home to only a few thousand residents at most, Muynak's population has been declining precipitously since the 1980s due to the recession of the Aral Sea.

Once a bustling fishing community, Muynak is now a shadow of its former self, dozens of miles from the rapidly receding shoreline of the Aral Sea. Fishing had always been part of the economy of the region, and Muynak became a center of industrial fishing and canning. A regional agricultural monoculture dominated by cotton production which diverts water from tributary rivers of the sea into irrigation, and severe pollution caused by agricultural chemical runoff, are causing the sea to evaporate and the water that remains is highly saline and very toxic, causing the ecological disaster which is inevitably destroying the sea and killing the residents of the towns in its vicinity, including Muynak.

Muynak is now home to a incongruous armada of rusting hulks that once made up the proud fishing fleet during the Soviet era. Poisonous dust storms kicked up by strong winds across the dried and polluted seabed give rise to a multitude of chronic and acute illnesses among the few residents, weather unmoderated by the sea now buffets the town with hotter-than-normal summers and colder-than-normal winters.

The Aral Sea was once the world's fourth-largest saline body of water, it has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s, after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet Union irrigation projects. By 2004, the sea had shrunk to 25% of its original surface area, and a nearly fivefold increase in salinity had killed most of its natural flora and fauna. By 2007 it had declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into three separate lakes, two of which are too salty to support fish. The once prosperous fishing industry has been virtually destroyed, and former fishing towns along the original shores have become ship graveyards. With this collapse has come unemployment and economic hardship.

The disappearance of the lake was no surprise to the Soviets; they expected it to happen long before. As early as in 1964, Aleksandr Asarin at the Hydroproject Institute pointed out that the lake was doomed explaining, "It was part of the five-year plans, approved by the council of ministers and the Politburo. Nobody on a lower level would dare to say a word contradicting those plans, even if it was the fate of the Aral Sea."








Shrinkage of the Aral sea between 1989 and 2008

coordinates : 43°46'28.87"N 59°02'20.02"E
google map

pictures sources : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
text source : 1 2

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22 comments

  1. Anonymous // Sunday, April 26, 2009 1:47:00 PM  

    Astounding and regretable.

  2. Anonymous // Monday, April 27, 2009 12:03:00 AM  

    I enjoyed the read thanks a lot:)

  3. Anonymous // Monday, April 27, 2009 10:38:00 AM  

    Hey guys, showing pictures of boats on dry land will certainly get the 'Global Warming' and 'Sea Level Rising' folks on your back. :-)

    Interesting pictures.

    Thank you.

  4. Michael // Monday, April 27, 2009 11:23:00 AM  

    rising sea levels!!! its global warming!

  5. Evanzo // Tuesday, April 28, 2009 1:48:00 PM  

    Aral Sea almost disappeared from the face of the Earth

  6. Anonymous // Tuesday, April 28, 2009 8:59:00 PM  

    this is one of this worse things i have ever seen, i just don't understand it all but i will research it. GOD HELP US ALL! BARBIE

  7. Pusspuss // Tuesday, April 28, 2009 9:41:00 PM  

    Holy cow, I think that is the worst depletion of any sea I have ever seen. Disturbing to say the least!!

  8. dave // Wednesday, April 29, 2009 1:29:00 AM  

    wow

  9. zsygab // Wednesday, April 29, 2009 6:22:00 AM  

    cool post! very interesting one! thanx, it was a pleasure reading and watching the photos!

  10. Emily W // Thursday, April 30, 2009 1:32:00 PM  

    That's messed up =(

  11. ahhhhhhhh // Thursday, April 30, 2009 4:28:00 PM  

    wtf................

  12. Anonymous // Saturday, May 02, 2009 1:23:00 PM  

    It's a great sadness to see the outcome of a few man's decisions and actions. For a sea to disappear is devastating to witness. Not a natural event.

  13. pplsicd // Saturday, May 02, 2009 3:49:00 PM  

    Obviously, "Global Warming" did raise this 'sea level.' Great pictures. Unfortunate fate for those living there.

  14. Anonymous // Saturday, May 02, 2009 4:25:00 PM  

    There is more water now (May 2009) according to Google Earth

  15. Anonymous // Monday, May 04, 2009 5:54:00 AM  

    Looking on Google website, The final picture looks like it has been altered.

    http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&tab=wl

    You have to zoom out quite a bit but you can easily reconize the lake.

  16. Anonymous // Tuesday, May 05, 2009 2:26:00 PM  

    That is quite amazing. but look at it today at


    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=43%C2%B046%2728.87%22N+59%C2%B002%2720.02%22E&sll=32.5,14.2&sspn=0.011202,0.022745&ie=UTF8&ll=43.774874,59.041901&spn=0.019181,0.04549&t=h&z=15&iwloc=A
    google map

    +43° 46' 28.87", +59° 2' 20.02"

    that is quite amazing as well.

  17. raitucarp // Wednesday, May 06, 2009 11:29:00 PM  

    Hmm, but I'm litle confuse about that

  18. Davelkie // Friday, May 08, 2009 12:43:00 AM  

    National Geographic ran an article in the late1980's on the Aral sea and at that stage the Soviets had agreed to divert so many cubic miles of water every year into the sea to sustain it. What ever happened to that proposal. Thanks for a great article!

  19. Anonymous // Sunday, May 10, 2009 10:34:00 PM  

    Poor Fish. V.v

  20. Anonymous // Monday, June 01, 2009 10:06:00 AM  

    Are the Russians interested in getting the sea restored? Why or why not? How long would it take to restore the sea?

  21. Anonymous // Monday, July 27, 2009 11:39:00 AM  

    It is not russian, it is uzbekian now. Different country, you know. How long? Must be never.

  22. Adam // Tuesday, July 28, 2009 8:34:00 PM  

    With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was no longer Russia's problem. The Aral Sea straddles the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.