Hello Golden Age Lake

Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow's name has eleven syllables.

Turkmenistan's President (digging) Gurbanguly Mälikgulyýewiç Berdimuhamedow's name is really long.

Yesterday we posted an elegiac farewell to the venerable Euphrates River, or at least the Iraqi portion. Today it is our happier task to welcome the nascent  man-made Golden Age Lake into the family of planetary bodies of water. (See the essential WaterWired on the same topic, but proper netiquette requires that you read this first, of course. More resources below.)

Central Asia's Turkmenistan is 80 percent desert. Its western border is defined by the saline southern portion of the Caspian Sea

Central Asia's Turkmenistan is 80 percent desert. Its western border is defined by the saline southern portion of the Caspian Sea

Recently conceived in the central Asian republic of Turkmenistan (you can locate it with the très cool Platial map in the right column), the lacustrine fetus is now in a lengthy period of gestation–to be slowly nourished by a intricate system of umbilical canals–in the sandy womb of the Karashor depression. (And with that, we drop the ridiculously overwrought birth metaphor.)

Eighty percent of Turkmenistan–which is roughly the size of California–is the black-sand Karakum desert. It’s understandable that the former Soviet republic would both want to “bring life” to the sand-covered immensity and to carry out what the AP article accurately calls “a Soviet-style engineering feat” to accomplish the transformation. What’s puzzling is why they think it will work.

You can read the article and the resources listed below for details. Broadly speaking, the Turkmen plan to create the lake by transferring excess water from the country’s soggy cotton fields to the northern Karashor depression via an enormous network of irrigation canals. Per the article:

Turkmen leaders say the massive lake will help drain water-logged cotton fields and encourage plant life and attract migratory birds to the desert.

And the hapless migratory birds will probably die, because, as critics of the project note, runoff from the cotton fields is heavily laced with toxic pesticides and fertilizers.

There is a long history of massive water transfers like this carried out by the Soviet Union that have devastated Central Asia’s water ecology. From the article:

For decades, Central Asia’s environment has suffered as a result of Soviet-era irrigation projects. The Aral Sea, which once lay on the border between the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was the world’s fourth-largest lake, but has since shrunk by almost 90 percent, devastating fisheries as salinity levels spiked.

Please see our two-part ranting and raving about the Aral Sea calamity here and here: a brief and bitter history of a beautiful lake-based ecological system teeming with life, now, despite current efforts at revivification, remain a wasteland of  brackish  lifeless “water” and sand.

See WaterWired for a more detailed explanation of the Turkmenistan project, written in a sardonic voice that rivals our own. It’s the work Michael E. ‘Aquadoc’ Campana–hydrogeologist and Professor of Geosciences at Oregon State University–who writes on 6/9/09 that the project may be shelved due to almost unanimous global dismay and scorn, but it looks like the bulldozers and shovels are up and running at this point.

Resources:

Michael provides this link to an excellent comprehensive Science magazine article on the project.

A four-page report that looks to have been done by a French organization tied to UNESCO. Maps and charts.

Other articles:

Turkmenistan to create desert sea

Turkmenistan tries to green its desert with manmade lake

Giant Turkmen Lake Sets Off Environmental Alarms

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One Response

  1. we are concern about enviromental too

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