Aral Sea

Aral Sea
Aral teńizi (Kazakh)
Orol dengizi  (Uzbek)
Аральское море (Russian)
AralSea1989 2014.jpg
The Aral Sea in 1989 (left) and 2014 (right)
LocationKazakhstan - Uzbekistan,
Central Asia
Coordinates45°N 60°E / 45°N 60°E / ]
Surface elevationNorth: 42 m (138 ft) (2011)
South: 29 m (95 ft) (2007)
53.4 m (175 ft) (1960)[3]
SettlementsAral, Kazakhstan and Mo‘ynoq, Uzbekistan
The map of 'Aral' Sea of 1853 published for the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society in London
Map: Location of Aral Sea (shoreline c. 2008) in relation to nearby countries - Amu Darya basin in orange, Syr Darya basin in yellow

The Aral Sea (əl/)[4] was an endorheic lake (one with no outflow) lying between Kazakhstan (Aktobe and Kyzylorda Regions) in the north and Uzbekistan (Karakalpakstan autonomous region) in the south. The name roughly translates as "Sea of Islands", referring to over 1,100 islands that had dotted its waters; in the Turkic languages aral means "island, archipelago". The Aral Sea drainage basin encompasses Uzbekistan and parts of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Iran.[1]

Formerly the fourth-largest lake in the world with an area of 68,000 km2 (26,300 sq mi), the Aral Sea has been shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. By 1997, it had declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into four lakes – the North Aral Sea, the eastern and western basins of the once far larger South Aral Sea, and one smaller intermediate lake.[5] By 2009, the southeastern lake had disappeared and the southwestern lake had retreated to a thin strip at the western edge of the former southern sea; in subsequent years, occasional water flows have led to the southeastern lake sometimes being replenished to a small degree.[6] Satellite images taken by NASA in August 2014 revealed that for the first time in modern history the eastern basin of the Aral Sea had completely dried up.[7] The eastern basin is now called the Aralkum Desert.

In an ongoing effort in Kazakhstan to save and replenish the North Aral Sea, a dam project was completed in 2005; in 2008, the water level in this lake had risen by 12 m (39 ft) compared to 2003.[8] Salinity has dropped, and fish are again found in sufficient numbers for some fishing to be viable.[9] The maximum depth of the North Aral Sea is 42 m (138 ft) (as of 2008).[2]

The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called "one of the planet's worst environmental disasters".[10][11] The region's once-prosperous fishing industry has been essentially destroyed, bringing unemployment and economic hardship. The water from the diverted Syr Darya river is used to irrigate about two million hectares (5,000,000 acres) of farmland in the Ferghana Valley.[12] The Aral Sea region is also heavily polluted, with consequential serious public health problems.

UNESCO added the historical documents concerning the development of the Aral Sea to its Memory of the World Register as a unique resource to study this "environmental tragedy".


Geographer Nick Middleton believes that the Amu Darya did not flow into the shallow depression that now forms the Aral Sea until the beginning of the Holocene,[13] and it is known that the Amu Darya flowed into the Caspian Sea via the Uzboy channel until the Holocene.[13] The Syr Darya formed a large lake in the Kyzyl Kum during the Pliocene known as the Mynbulak depression.[14]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Aralmeer
አማርኛ: አራል ባሕር
العربية: بحر آرال
asturianu: Mar d'Aral
Avañe'ẽ: Para Aral
azərbaycanca: Aral gölü
تۆرکجه: آرال گؤلو
বাংলা: আরাল সাগর
Bân-lâm-gú: Aral Hái
башҡортса: Арал диңгеҙе
беларуская: Аральскае мора
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Аральскае мора
भोजपुरी: अरल सागर
български: Аралско море
bosanski: Aralsko jezero
brezhoneg: Mor Aral
буряад: Арал тэнгис
català: Mar d'Aral
Чӑвашла: Арал тинĕсĕ
čeština: Aralské jezero
Cymraeg: Môr Aral
dansk: Aralsøen
Deutsch: Aralsee
dolnoserbski: Aralski jazor
Ελληνικά: Αράλη
español: Mar de Aral
Esperanto: Aralo
euskara: Aral itsasoa
Fiji Hindi: Aral Sea
français: Mer d'Aral
Frysk: Aralmar
Gaeilge: Muir Aral
Gàidhlig: Muir Aral
galego: Mar de Aral
ગુજરાતી: અરાલ સમુદ્ર
한국어: 아랄해
հայերեն: Արալի ծով
हिन्दी: अरल सागर
hornjoserbsce: Aralski jězor
hrvatski: Aralsko jezero
Bahasa Indonesia: Laut Aral
íslenska: Aralvatn
italiano: Lago d'Aral
עברית: ימת אראל
ქართული: არალის ზღვა
қазақша: Арал теңізі
Kiswahili: Aral (ziwa)
Кыргызча: Арал деңизи
latviešu: Arāla jūra
lietuvių: Aralo jūra
lumbaart: Lach de Aral
magyar: Aral-tó
македонски: Аралско Езеро
മലയാളം: അരാൽ കടൽ
მარგალური: არალიშ ზუღა
مازِرونی: آرال
Bahasa Melayu: Laut Aral
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Gèng-hāi
монгол: Арал тэнгис
မြန်မာဘာသာ: အေရယ်ပင်လယ်
Nederlands: Aralmeer
नेपाल भाषा: अराल सागर
日本語: アラル海
norsk: Aralsjøen
norsk nynorsk: Aralsjøen
occitan: Mar d'Aral
ଓଡ଼ିଆ: ଅରଳ ସାଗର
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Orol dengizi
پنجابی: ارال سمندر
ភាសាខ្មែរ: សមុទ្រ អារ៉ាល់
português: Mar de Aral
Qaraqalpaqsha: Aral ten'izi
română: Marea Aral
Runa Simi: Aral qucha
Scots: Aral Sea
shqip: Deti Aral
sicilianu: Mari d'Aral
Simple English: Aral Sea
slovenčina: Aralské jazero
slovenščina: Aralsko jezero
српски / srpski: Аралско језеро
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Aralsko more
suomi: Araljärvi
svenska: Aralsjön
தமிழ்: ஏரல் கடல்
татарча/tatarça: Арал диңгезе
тоҷикӣ: Баҳри Арал
Türkçe: Aral Gölü
українська: Аральське море
ئۇيغۇرچە / Uyghurche: شور دېڭىز
Tiếng Việt: Biển Aral
Winaray: Dagat Aral
吴语: 咸海
ייִדיש: אראל ים
粵語: 鹹海
žemaitėška: Arala jūra
中文: 鹹海