STS059-L22-140 Aral Sea, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan April 1994 Parts of three independent republics (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan), former members of the Soviet Union, are shown in this synoptic, low-oblique, northeast-looking photograph of the Aral Sea. One feature of this springtime photograph is the Amudar'ya River that flows northward into the southern end of the partially ice-covered Aral Sea. The river's multibraided stream channels, ditches, and canals form a maze of interconnected waterways throughout the extensive delta south of the sea. A major concentration of cultivated, irrigated agricultural features (browns and tans) are evident south of the Amudar'ya delta. Cotton is the primary agricultural product on both sides of the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan border. Because this entire region is classified as a desert, proper water management is a key concern in planning. As in other desert regions of the world, loss of moisture through evaporation produces a dry, nonvegetated environment. This sea, which straddles the Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan border, has lost more than one-half of its water surface since 1960 because streams that previously fed the sea have been diverted for irrigation. Other near-vertical photographs show more detail of the rapidly receding water level of the Aral Sea.
View northeastward across Uzbekastan to the partly-ice-covered Aral Sea and Kazakhstan. The irrigated fan-delta of the Amu Darya extends from the right side of the photograph to end in extensive salt flats at the south end of the sea. The Aral was the fourth-largest inland sea or lake in the world, until diversion and over-use of the river water for irrigation led, in this arid climate, to the sea's decline.