In the far western part of Uzbekistan lie the salty remains of a dead sea. To reach its shrinking shoreline, one must travel a long way through the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan all the way to Moynaq, the last stop. Once a bustling fishing community and Uzbekistan’s only port city, Moynaq is now a shadow of its former self, dozens of kilometers from the shoreline. Moynaq major tourist attractions are the armada of rusting hulks that once made up the proud fishing fleet during the Soviet era, and a one-room museum devoted to Moynaq heritage as a center of the fishing industry.
Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world, the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size, killing living species and forcing many to flee from their natural habitat. The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters.