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7/13/2009

Eastern Aral Sea has shrunk by 80% since 2006

The eastern lobe of the disaster-struck Aral Sea seems to have shrunk by four-fifths in just three years, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Friday.

It released an overlay of photographs taken by one of its observation satellites, Envisat, on July 1 2006 and July 6 2009.

Once the world's fourth-largest inland body of water but now a byword for ecological calamity, the Aral Sea has been retreating over the last half-century after rivers that fed it were diverted for Soviet cotton irrigation projects.  Image: Satellite image shows the dramatic retreat of the Aral Sea?s shoreline.

Around two decades ago, it split into the Small Aral Sea in the north, located in Kazakhstan, and the Large Aral Sea, shared by Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
The horseshoe-shaped Large Aral Sea began to split into eastern and western lobes, in 2000.
"The eastern lobe retreated substantially between 2006 and 2009," ESA said in a press release.
"It appears to have lost about 80 percent of its water since the 2006 (image) acquisition, at which time the eastern lobe had a length of about 150 kilometres (93 miles) and a width of about 70 kms (43 miles)."
The Large Aral Sea is expected to dry out completely by 2020, it added.
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