As a result of the five-year plans, under Sovjet regime, the sea had shrunk to only one fourth of its original size.
The two major rivers, Syr Darya and Amu Darya, where diverted so Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and other former Soviet countries could use this water to grow cotton and other export crops, in the face of widespread environmental consequences.
On top of that the water was heavily polluted, largely as the result of weapons testing, industrial projects and pesticides.
In the past the Aral Sea was a rich source of fish. But due to pollution and the increased salinity almost all sea life vanished. This had a huge impact on the fishing industry.
But not only the fish disappeared, also the water. The people of the fishing town Aralsk saw the water withdraw day after day. There was not much they could do about it...
The only thing they could do, was moving southwards together with the water. They have build several new harbours, but without success. Eventually they had to give up.
Today the shore is about 100 km south-east of the town. The town of Aralsk had become a forgotten desert town.
On the former shoreline of the Aral Sea only ruins and rusty fishing boats recall the story of better times.
Yet there have been several efforts to save the region. In 2005 a dam was build between the northern and the southern part of the sea. This seems to be a great success, as the water level of the northern part is rising again. Still it will take centuries for the region to recover...