Aral Sea satellite image 1987

A 2008 satellite image of the Aral Sea.

The Aral Sea (Karakalpak/Kazakh: Арал теңизи/теңізі, Aral ten'izi; Russian: Аральскοе Мοре, Aral'skoye Morye) is a large lake located along the border of Karakalpakstan and Kazakhstan within the Soviet Union. One the world's fourth largest lake in area, the Aral Sea drastically began to shrink beginning in the 1960s due to water redistricting for agricultural projects. The near loss of the sea has been regarded as one of the planet's worst environmental disasters, effecting the regional climate and ecosystem.

Efforts have been made since the 1990s to both stop and reverse the Aral's decline. While both Karakalpakstan and Kazakhstan have cooperated in efforts to save the sea, the Karakalpaks (whose culture and livelihood focused on the sea) adopted the strictest regulations to curb the decline. The Aral Sea has naturally begun to refill beginning in the late 2000s, with the sea returning to pre-1990 levels as of 2010. It is estimated that the Aral Sea will return to its original levels within a few decades, though the growth in population has may increase the amount of time.

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