Central Asian lake shrinking, man-made geo and ecological disaster ahead

Posted: February 19, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Central Asian lake under threat
By Robin Forestier-Walker, Lake Balkhash, Kazakhstan
Al Jazeera online 19 Feb 2010

Balkhash basinBalkhash belongs to a string of lakes which play an important role in helping to regulate Kazakhstan’s largely arid climate. It is the end point of a river system known as the Ile Balkhash Basin that is home to more than three million people. The Ile river is fed by rainfall, snow and glacial melt from the mountain ranges which straddle China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan…

The drop appears to show that the lake has receded by up to two metres in the past five years. And in shallow areas of the lake, that regression could be even greater.

The UN acknowledged in 2004 that Balkhash was threatened by upstream extraction of water in Kazakhstan and China, largely for irrigation. China is developing the region of Xinjiang, which borders Kazakhstan. Tens of thousands of Chinese have been resettled and new dams are being built…

Central Asia has already experienced catastrophic loss of a water system. The Aral Sea is considered one of the greatest environmental tragedies of the 20th Century. Soviet irrigation led to its irreversible decline. Even today, vast quantities of water are drawn from the rivers that feed it and used for cotton cultivation by Kazakhstan and its neighbours, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

The Aral Sea is now a tenth of its original size. Where there was once water, there is now desert. Fertiliser and pesticide residues have contaminated the local population, and salt particles are believed to accelerate glacial melting in mountains thousands of kilometres away.

Scientific evidence looks certain to demonstrate that the same conditions of unsustainable water use that destroyed the Aral now threaten Balkhash. What is less clear is whether it will be enough to persuade the Chinese and the Kazakhs to co-operate and compromise in order to ensure the lake’s survival.

http://bit.ly/be2et7

From Wikipedia:

It is the largest lake in Central Asia. It is a closed basin that is part of the endorheic basin that includes the Caspian and Aral seas.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Balkhash

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