After crossing the border into Uzbekistan, we headed north towards the Aral Sea, scene to one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters.
Formerly the world’s fourth-largest saltwater lake at 68,000 sq km (about the size of the Republic of Ireland),the Aral Sea has been steadily disappearing over the last 50 years after the Soviet Union diverted the two main rivers that fed it to irrigate the nearby desert in order to grow cotton. The sea is now less than 10% of its former size; these NASA satellite images give some indication of the extent of the damage:
This has destroyed the once-prosperous fishing industry in the area and brought widespread unemployment and economic hardship to the towns that used to sit on its shores. Nowhere is this more apparent than the town of Mo‘ynoq in northern Uzbekistan.
Once a prosperous fishing village, Mo‘ynoq is now over 100km from the edge of the sea…
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