Environmentalists warn Lake Balkhash facing ecological ruin

October 19. Central Asia Newswire

Environmentalists warn Lake Balkhash facing ecological ruinCentral Asia’s second-largest lake could meet the same fate as the now-shrunken Aral Sea, Kazakh environmentalists attending an international conference in Almaty on the preservation of Lake Balkhash told Kazakhstan Pravda.

Local dependence and heightened use of the rivers leading into the lake have led to less water entering into the lake. Lake Balkhash received half the volume of water as a result, Kazakhstan Pravda reported.

As a result the lake is becoming shallower, more polluted and is reaching dangerous levels of salination, a process which could have devastating effects for the roughly 3 million Kazakhs who live in the lake’s vicinity.

The conference met last Monday and Tuesday under the banner of “Integrated Management of Water Resources in the Ili-Balkhash Basin: Joint Solutions and Perspectives,” and welcomed over 100 delegates from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and China.

Environmental problems are continuing along the rivers that feed into the lake. Local residents are also dumping waste into the river systems, and the lack of sewage systems and building protection zones has also contributed to Lake Balkash’s troubles.

Deputy Chief of the Balkhash-Alakol Basin Inspection Committee on Water Resources Zholdas Amanbayev told Kazakhstan Pravda that irrigation systems have significantly deteriorated, which has also increased the pollution and aridification of the sea.

“Over the past 15-20 years, no renovations or repairs to the water facilities were conducted,” he said.

The failure to follow through on environmental action plans is also speeding up the lake’s deterioration, the Deputy Director-General of the Eurasian Water Center Bolat Bekniyazov said.

“A program to address environmental and water problems in [Lake Balkhash from 2006-2009] did not have sufficient funding, was too short in time and [was] in no way connected with the provincial and regional development programs.”

Participants concluded that lessons need to be drawn from previous lake rehabilitation programs and adopted a resolution to solve the ecological problems of the lake.