The Aral Sea is situated to the south of Kazakhstan and the north of Uzbekistan. Once the fourth-largest saline lake in the world, today's Aral Sea is much smaller and poisonously saline.
During the 1950s, the Soviet government decided to irrigate the arid region between the Aral Sea and the Pamir Mountains, digging canals and planting cotton farms. However, most of the diverted water soaked into the soil or evaporated, and the sea began to dry up quickly. By 1998, the Aral Sea was only 1/10 of its original size, and the water was so saline fish could not live in it. Despite ongoing post-Soviet protective measures, the sea has recovered only slightly, and water demands from its two bordering countries make hope for future recovery of this once-vigorous biosphere bleak.