Watch time-series images of the the Aral Sea over the past decade.
It was once the fourth largest lake in the world. Fed primarily by snowmelt and precipitation from faraway mountains, the Aral Sea supported extensive fishing communities and a temperate oasis in a mostly arid region of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
But in the 1950s and 60s, the government of the Soviet Union launched projects that diverted the region’s two major rivers—the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya. The dams, canals, and other water works were built in order to transform the desert into agricultural fields for cotton and other crops. The Aral Sea has been slowly disappearing ever since.