“Since the Aral Sea, technically a lake, began shrinking in the 1960s, governments on both sides of the border led initiatives to revive tiny fractions of it. But Soviet-era dams, diverting waters feeding the sea to cotton monocultures, squelched the dream. As the Aral Sea dried out, a desert, the Aralkum, emerged and continues to expand on what used to be the lakebed. Today, the bed is caked with a thick layer of salt and of pesticide runoff that crystallized, creating a toxic cocktail of sediment on the ground. When the wind blows, this salt and dust can coat entire communities.

Now, instead of trying to restore the lake, officials from the Uzbekistan Forestry Agency and locals are trying to plant a new forest where it once rested. The main purpose of the afforestation project it to curb the harmful sandstorms and improve the ecosystem by planting desert-tolerant plants like saxaul (Haloxylon ammodendron) on the lakebed.”

From Mongabay.