Gone. Another image of the sea from March 2010:
From the Huffington Post:
The drying up of the Aral Sea is one of the planet's most shocking disasters, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Sunday, as he urged Central Asian leaders to step up efforts to solve the problem.The story of the Aral Sea is the sort of thing you want to point to when people argue that technology and human ingenuity will save us from our own self-inflicted crises. The Shrinkage started with the Soviet Union's plan to divert the Amu Darya and Syr Darya to grow a bunch of cotton in the middle of the desert. Hilariously, the Soviets knew the Sea would vanish as a result of this plan - but they did it anyway:
Once the world's fourth-largest lake, the sea has shrunk by 90 percent since the rivers that feed it were largely diverted in a Soviet project to boost cotton production in the arid region.
The shrunken sea has ruined the once-robust fishing economy and left fishing trawlers stranded in sandy wastelands, leaning over as if they dropped from the air. The sea's evaporation has left layers of highly salted sand, which winds can carry as far away as Scandinavia and Japan, and which plague local people with health troubles.
''It was part of the five-year plans, approved by the council of ministers and the Politburo,'' said Aleksandr Asarin, an expert at the Russian State Hydroproject Institute who angered his bosses by predicting, in 1964, that the sea was headed for catastrophe. ''Nobody on a lower level would dare to say a word contradicting those plans,'' he said, ''even if it was the fate of the Aral Sea.''Apparently Kazakhstan is working to revive what is now the North Aral Sea with some success. There's less hope for the southern sliver of the sea that remains. The water, already so salty as to have been rendered lifeless, continue to recede from the stranded fishing villages and rusting husks of Soviet-era fishing boats that used to subsist on the sea's bounty.