Aral Sea

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Aral Sea Facts

Basin Area: 1231400 1,231,400 km²
475,320.4 mi²
Type:watershed or basin, lake

Includes Riparians: Kazakhstan; Republic of Uzbekistan; Tajikistan; Kyrgyzstan; Afghanistan; Turkmenistan; China; Pakistan;
Facts about included riparians are at the end of the article. Fact References[1]

All Facts about Aral Sea

The Aral Sea was, until comparatively recently, the fourth largest inland body of water in the world. Its basin covers 1.8 million km 2 , primarily in what used to be the Soviet Union, and what is now the independent republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The environmental problems of the Aral Sea basin are among the worst in the world. Water diversions, agricultural practices, and industrial waste have resulted in a disappearing sea, salinization, and organic and inorganic pollution. The problems of the Aral, which previously had been an internal issue of the Soviet Union, became international problems in 1991. The five new major riparians- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan-have been struggling since that time to help stabilize, and eventually to rehabilitate, the watershed.[2]

By 1989, the northern part of the Aral Sea had essentially split from the southern part.[3] The Sea’s original volume had been reduced by 75% by 1996, and its surface area was at that point half what it once was.[4] Between 2000 and 2001, the Southern Aral Sea had also separated into Eastern and Western parts, with only a small area connecting the two. In the first decade of the 21st century, the Southern Sea saw huge losses, and by 2012, very little of the Sea’s initial volume, and even that of ten years prior, remained. Less polluted and less saline, the Northern Sea has been the focus of most recent efforts to rehabilitate the area, while the Southern Sea continues (with small year to year fluctuations) to shrink.[5][3]

With assistance from the World Bank, Kazakhstan built the Kok-Aral Dam in 2005, separating the Northern Sea from the Southern Sea. The project, which also included relief efforts along the Syr Darya, cost around $85.8 million dollars, but appears to have been a definite success.[6] The Northern Sea reached its target water level in just seven months, far more quickly than the predicted five to ten years. While it is still far from what it once was, the Sea’s salinity decreased as a result of the dam, and some species of fish now live in its waters once again, inciting in many locals hope that the strong fishing industry they once had may someday return. Relief efforts along the Syr Darya allowed its capacity, by 2006, to reach a comfortable 700 cubic meters per second, allowing more water to reach the Northern Aral Sea.[7] The increased capacity also gives farmers living along the river a little more water with which to irrigate their crops. It is the hope of the World Bank and of Kazakhstan that at some point more lakes will return to the regions along the river as well, where fish can grow to replenish the supply in the Northern Sea as necessary.[4] In 2007, the World Bank approved a second loan to Kazakhstan to build an additional dam.[8] This appears to still be in the works.[9]

Case Studies linked to Aral Sea[edit]

Articles linked to Aral Sea[edit]

Riparians Water Features

Located in this basin- Kazakhstan
Located in this basin- Pakistan
Located in this basin- Turkmenistan
Located in this basin- Kyrgyzstan
Located in this basin- Republic of Uzbekistan
Located in this basin- China
Located in this basin- Afghanistan
Located in this basin- Tajikistan

Projects and Initiatives Agreements and Treaties

External Links

Facts about Included Riparians

RiparianPopulation in BasinArea within Basin in sq. kmIrrigated Lands within Basin in sq kmAverage Discharge in cubic m per second
Kazakhstan2.621 million2,621,000 people424,400 km²163,861.756 mi²102,100 km²39,421.03 mi²31,688.69 m³/s1,119,075.536 cfs
1,000 km³/y
Pakistan5.4e-4 million540 people200 km²77.22 mi²0 km²0 mi²0 m³/s0 cfs
0 km³/y
Turkmenistan1.272 million1,272,000 people70,000 km²27,027.151 mi²16,100 km²6,216.245 mi²950.661 m³/s33,572.266 cfs
30 km³/y
Kyrgyzstan2.808 million2,808,000 people111,700 km²43,127.611 mi²14,500 km²5,598.481 mi²31,688.69 m³/s1,119,075.536 cfs
1,000 km³/y
Republic of Uzbekistan27.701 million27,701,000 people382,600 km²147,722.686 mi²153,200 km²59,150.851 mi²9,506.607 m³/s335,722.661 cfs
300 km³/y
China0.0017 million1,700 people1,900 km²733.594 mi²0 km²0 mi²0 m³/s0 cfs
0 km³/y
Afghanistan5.489 million5,489,000 people104,900 km²40,502.116 mi²9,500 km²3,667.971 mi²63,377.381 m³/s2,238,151.073 cfs
2,000 km³/y
Tajikistan7.094 million7,094,000 people135,700 km²52,394.063 mi²36,700 km²14,169.949 mi²31,688.69 m³/s1,119,075.536 cfs
1,000 km³/y
  1. ^ Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database accessed online: and Query: on February 25 2013
  2. ^ Product of the Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database, Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University. Additional information about the TFDD can be found at:
  3. ^ 3.0 3.1 Earth Observatory, NASA. 2003. “Aral Sea: Image of the Day August 25, 2003.” Accessed July 25, 2013.
  4. ^ 4.0 4.1 The World Bank: Europe and Central Asia. 2005. “Saving a Corner of the Aral Sea.” Accessed July 25, 2013.
  5. ^ Earth Observatory, NASA. 2003. “World of Change: Shrinking Aral Sea.” Accessed July 24, 2013.
  6. ^ Earth Observatory, NASA. 2007. “North Aral Sea Recovery: Image of the Day May 4 2007” Accessed July 24, 2013,
  7. ^ Pala, Christopher. 2006. “Once a Terminal Case, the North Aral Sea Shows New Signs of Life,” Science Magazine, accessed July 24, 2013,
  8. ^ Antelava, Natalya. 2007. “Kazakhs get loan to save Aral Sea.” BBC News. Accessed July 30, 2013.
  9. ^ The World Bank. 2013. “World Bank Group—Kazakhstan Partnership Program Snapshot, April 2013.” Accessed July 30, 2013.