Ebbing away

 
Published: Sunday 29 February 2004

Kazakhstan's waterbodies seem to be eternally mismanaged. Lack of vision saw the Aral Sea, which flows through Central Asia, shrink to a third of its actual size. Today, Balkhash lake faces a similar crisis in the country.

It may be noted that Ili river emerges from neighbouring China and provides 80 per cent of the water to the lake. With a large chunk of population migrating towards China's west, where the river flows, the need for industries and agricultural complexes is growing. Mel Eleusizov, head of Kazakh non-profit body Tabigat, says: "If even 15 per cent of Ili river is diverted, we will face an ecological disaster."

According to Megapolis, a Kazakh newspaper, the lake has shrunk by over 2,000 square kilometres. A report released by the United Nations Development Programme (undp) states that central Kazakhstan has access to only 3 per cent of the country's water. undp officials feel more damage will be caused if the country does not have a water management pact with its neighbours.

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