The Aral Sea is located in Central Asia and was once considered the fourth largest lake on the planet. By 2007, it had diminished to 10 percent its original size. The sea has dried up into three major lakes and two distinct bodies of water: the Small Aral (north) and the Large Aral (south). The Soviet Union's irrigation projects were a big part of the reason as to why the water started shrinking. The Soviet Union hid the sea's downfall up until about 1985. Finally an attempt was made to make things better when a dam was constructed in 2005. This dam helped the northernmost lake expand and drop significantly in salinity. The extreme loss of fish species, the lost connection to major ports for shipping, and significant health problems are just a few examples of how the rapidly shrinking waters of the Aral Sea have caused an extreme amount of turmoil.
The Aral Sea is located right in-between Kazakhstan in the north and Karakalpakstan, an independent region of Uzbekistan, in the south. Its drainage basin covers 1.8 million square kilometers within seven nations: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Iran. The name roughly translates as "Sea of Islands," which refers to more than 1,534 islands that once were spread among its waters. The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called "one of the planet's worst environmental disasters" (Micklin, 2007) .
This research was extremely necessary because of the vast environmental changes it was causing. The consequences of the Aral Sea shrinking were becoming extreme and experts were needed to do research on the various problems. Not only was the environment being largely affected, but large amounts of people were also feeling the effects of the shrinking of the sea. The life expectancy of the area's population went down from a shocking 65 to 61 years. Multiple illnesses were also on the rise and becoming more widespread. These illnesses included: respiratory illness, throat cancer, esophageal cancer, digestive disorders, liver ailments, kidney ailments, and anemia.