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Large salt lake between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It once covered some 26,300 sq mi (68,000 sq km) and was the fourth largest inland body of water in the world, but diversion of the waters of the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers for irrigation has led to an overall reduction of its surface area by more than half since 1960. Its volume has been reduced drastically, which has led to an increase in salinity. The soil of the dried-up lake bed has been found to contain salts and other toxic substances.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Aral Sea, visit Britannica.com.