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Once the fourth-biggest lake in the world, the eastern basin of the Aral Sea in central Asia is now completely dry. It is the result of a Soviet-era project to divert rivers for agriculture and a lack of rainfall at its source.
“This is the first time the eastern basin has completely dried in modern times,” Philip Micklin, an Aral Sea expert from Western Michigan University told NASA’s Earth Observatory, which captured fresh satellite images of the lake. “And it is likely the first time it has completely dried in 600 years, since Medieval desiccation [drying out] associated with diversion of Amu Darya to the Caspian Sea.”
Starting in the 1960s, the Soviet Union had started diverting water from the regions of Kazakhstan, Uzbekisan and Turkmenistan.
In a bid to drive up production of cotton in nearby steppes, Soviet engineers diverted the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, the two rivers flowing into the lake