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Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square km, and used to be famous for its prosperous fishing industry, the Aral Sea is now “one of the planet's worst environmental disasters”, addressed by UNESCO.

A group of experts and representatives from surrounding countries, UN organizations, relevant international organizations and foundations gathered for a meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, last week to jointly meet the challenges brought by the dry-up of the Aral Sea.

The Aral Sea was an endorheic lake lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It has been shrinking since the 1960s and has lost 90 per cent of its previous territories, left fishing trawlers stranded in sandy wasterlands.

Satellite images taken by NASA in 2014 showed that for the first time in modern history the eastern basin of the Aral Sea had completely dried up. The eastern basin is now called the Aralkum Desert, with layers of highly salted sand. Winds can carry the sands as far away as Scandinavia and Japan, and has been plaguing local people with health troubles.

“Shrinking of the lake has brought frequent salt sandstorm, severe salinization of farmland, intensifying river pollution, sharp decline of living species, and public health hazards, together with unemployment and economic hardship and a lot more other biology and social problems,” said CHEN Xi, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Xinjiang Branch, at the meeting.

Participants at the meeting hope to attract investments to help reduce the dry-up aftermath of the Aral Sea. New methods and new technologies are also suggested to relieve the negative effects on public health and environment in Central Asia, caused by the deteriorating shrinking of the Sea.

A field ecological monitoring and research station is supposed to build for the Aral Sea, jointly with the Institute of Botany of the Academy of Sciences of The Republic of Uzbekistan, according to CHEN.

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