The Aral Sea, once the world's fourth largest lake, but now has shrunk by 90 percent in what environmentalists describe as one of the worst man-made ecological disasters; the damage of the Aral Sea ecosystem has been unexpected and severe. The disappearance of the Aral Sea is the result of a large water transfer project in an area of the former Soviet Union with the driest climate in all of Asia. Huge amounts of water were diverted from the Aral Sea into two artificial rivers for the purpose of cotton and rice irrigation. It is no exaggeration to say that the case of the Aral Sea is one of the greatest environmental disasters ever recorded. In the early 1960's, the Soviet central government decided to make the Soviet Union self-sufficient in cotton and increase rice production. Government officials ordered the additional amount of needed water to be taken from the two rivers ( the Amu Darya and Syr Darya ) that feed the Aral Sea. Western Russia planners sought products that could be exported for hard currency, and they placed cotton
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