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Coming to Grips With the Aral Sea's Grim Legacy

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Science  02 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5411, pp. 30-33
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5411.30

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NUKUS, UZBEKISTAN-- Decades of zealous Soviet efforts to increase cotton yields in central Asia have changed the Aral Sea from a vast body of fresh water teeming with fish to a salty remnant that has marooned ports and killed the fishing industry. Now a major campaign is under way to improve the region's drinking water, revamp its agricultural practices, and sustain its biodiversity. The goal, however, is not to restore the Aral to its former grandeur--even local officials are resigned to the sea's eventual breakup into three lakes--but to assuage the disaster's social consequences and avert a scramble or even a war over water among the fledgling democracies in central Asia.

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