NASA describes an apocalyptic scene that has unfolded over the past couple of decades:
As the Aral Sea has dried up, fisheries and the communities that depended on them collapsed. The increasingly salty water became polluted with fertilizer and pesticides. The blowing dust from the exposed lakebed, contaminated with agricultural chemicals, became a public health hazard. The salty dust blew off the lakebed and settled onto fields, degrading the soil. Croplands had to be flushed with larger and larger volumes of river water. The loss of the moderating influence of such a large body of water made winters colder and summers hotter and drier.
In an attempt to salvage what little was left of the sea, Kazakhstan completed a dam in 2005 that prevented any water flow from reaching the eastern part of the lake. All of the water flowing from the two rivers can only reach the Northern Aral Sea. In 2014, the eastern basin of the Aral Sea completely dried up. This year, a small, shallow pool of water has reformed where the once vast eastern lobe existed, now called the Aralkum desert.