Moynaq (Uzbek: Maynoq; Russian Muynak), is a city in northern Karakalpakstan in western Uzbekistan. Home to only a few thousand residents at most, Moynaq's population has been declining precipitously since the 1980s.
Once a bustling fishing community and Uzbekistan's only port city with tens of thousands of residents, Moynaq is now a shadow of its former self, dozens of miles from the rapidly receding shoreline of the Aral Sea. Fishing had always been part of the economy of the region, and Moynaq became a center of industrial fishing and canning. However, overfishing the shallow sea in the past made it very succeptible to economic collapse as the Aral Sea has dried up. A regional agricultural monoculture dominated by cotton production which diverts water from tributary rivers of the sea into irrigation, and severe pollution caused by agricultural chemical runoff, are causing the sea to evaporate and the water that remains is highly saline and very toxic, causing the ecological disaster which is inevitably destroying the sea and killing the residents of the towns in its vicinity, including Moynaq.
Moynaq's major "tourist attractions" are the incongruous armada of rusting hulks that once made up the proud fishing fleet during the Soviet era, and a one-room museum devoted to Moynaq's heritage as a center of the fishing industry. Poisonous dust storms kicked up by strong winds across the dried and polluted seabed give rise to a multitude of chronic and acute illnesses among the few residents who have chosen to remain, most of them ethnic Karakalpaks, and weather unmoderated by the sea now buffets the town with hotter-than-normal summers and colder-than-normal winters.
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