The Guardian reports that a large section of the Aral Sea has completely dried up for the first time in modern history, according to Nasa. Images from the US space agency’s Terra satellite released last week show that the eastern basin of the Central Asian inland sea – which stretched across Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and was once the fourth largest in the world – was totally parched in August. Images taken in 2000 show an extensive body of water covering the same area. In the 1950s, two of the region’s major rivers – the Amu Darya and and the Syr Darya – were diverted by the Soviet government to provide irrigation for cotton production in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, starving the Aral. Water levels are believed to be down to less than 10 per cent of what they were five decades ago.
This is a disaster for the region. The region around the Aral Sea is said, by some historians, to be the birthplace of Zarathushtra (Zoroaster). The fate of the Aral Sea seems to be linked to the fate of the Parsi Zoroastrian community which is also slowly decreasing.