MASSIMO BREGA / EURELIOS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MASSIMO BREGA / EURELIOS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Housing near the Aral Sea. Aerial photograph of houses near the Aral Sea. This inland sea, once one of the largest in the world, is in the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The Aral Sea used to have a thriving fishing industry, but in the 1930s the Soviet Union dug canals that diverted the sea's major rivers to irrigate cotton fields. From the 1960s, the sea started to shrink, and by 2004 some 75 percent of the sea's area had been lost. The remaining water has tripled in salinity and is heavily contaminated by toxins, heavy metals and agricultural chemicals. The climate and seasons have changed, and the people in the area now struggle to survive on a mixture of agriculture and fishing.
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