The once fourth-largest inland water body in the world, Central Asia’s Aral Sea, has lost two-thirds of its volume in the last several decades. It has dwindled from being the size of Ireland to what are now several contaminated ponds.
Satellite images from the last 40 years reveal the extent of decline in the saltwater sea that is located between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently referred to its predicament as one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters, with overuse of contributory rivers by agriculture as well as global warming cited as the cause of its disappearance.
Dr Benjamin Lloyd-Hughes of the Walker Institute for Climate System Research at the University of Reading in the UK, stated: “Ultimately the disaster seen at the Aral Sea…are the combined effects of man and rising temperatures in those regions… the temperature has risen by over 1 degree Centigrade since 1970, which will have enhanced losses due to evaporation.”
Indeed, the vast water losses of the Aral Sea have created a local climate change effect, with summers becoming hotter and drier while winters are colder and longer. Global satellite photos have revealed similar patterns of once water-rich regions now facing the catastrophe of extended drought. Dr. Lloyd-Hughes mentioned Africa’s Lake Chad and the Toshka Lakes in Egypt as two examples.
Our appreciation, Dr. Lloyd-Hughes and other scientists for your candid observations of this urgent situation as we pray for the survival of precious places like the Aral Sea.
May humans everywhere adopt lifestyles that protect our own kind and the planet. During an August 2009 videoconference in Thailand, Supreme Master Ching Hai highlighted the actions needed to halt these alarming losses of the Earth’s vital waterways.