Signs of Life :: Environment

Straddling the border between Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south, the Aral Sea was the fourth-largest lake in the world until Soviet-era irrigation diverted water, destroying it. Photo by Christopher Herwig.

: : Kenyans Revive Ailing Lake Nakuru


Approximately 90 miles from Nairobi, a Kenyan lake that suffered environmental collapse in the 1990s is showing signs of recovery.


For three decades, local residents razed forests surrounding the lake to expand farmland, a response to desperate poverty, food shortages, and a growing population. As trees disappeared, rainfall decreased, causing the lake to shrink. Fish, birds, and frogs died off, victims of agricultural pollution. The lake’s flamingo population, a main tourist draw for the region, dropped from more than a million to less than 10,000. And as the flamingos disappeared, so did the tourists, dealing a drastic blow to the local economy.


But for the past two years, the residents of Lake Nakuru have begun fixing their environmental mistakes. They planted more than 3,000 trees in 2007 alone, and flamingos have been returning en masse to Lake Nakuru.



Central Asia’s Aral Sea is showing considerable revitalization after hundreds of millions of dollars in environmental clean-up efforts. Once called the worst human-caused environmental disaster of the 20th century, the sea had shrunk to nearly a quarter of its original size since the 1960s, destroying the fishing industry and causing widespread health problems for the local population. While the South Aral continues to be neglected, recovery efforts sponsored by the World Bank and the Kazakh government have helped the North Aral return to 40 percent of its original size.


For more photos of the Aral Sea: see Photo Essay


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