Men play chess in an empty building. During the 1950s and the 1960s the rivers that feed the Aral Sea (the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya) were diverted for irrigating cotton and other crops. This caused the lake to shrink uncovering sediments heavily polluted with industrial fertilizers that were washed into the lake over the preceding decades. Without the lake's water to contain it these toxic particles were spread by the wind and have caused numerous health problems in surrounding communities. Furthermore, as the lake evaporated the remaining water became increasingly saline and unable to sustain life, destroying the fishing industry. Muynak, once a thriving fishing port, became a depressed and dusty town far from the receding shore.