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10 000 hectares of Aral sea bottom will be wooded this year

01 мая 2012, 20:09
Saxaul in blossom
Saxaul in blossom
This years new spring plantings are scheduled to cover 9.5 hectares of the Aral Sea bottom, Tengrinews.kz reports, citing
Aytbay Kusherbay,head of Natural Resources and Environmental Management Department.

“April is the best month for planting in drained Aral sea bottom area. It is planned to plant a mix of sarsazan and saxaul shrubs in wet soil at the area of three thousand hectares. Sarzasan will occupy 1 thousand hectares. Plants of Tamarix species will be planted at 2025 hectares. 3295 hectares are designated for saxaul. In total the spring plantings will cover 9.5 thousand hectares,” Kusherbay said.

Overall we plan to increase the area under green plants by 14.5 thousand hectares this year. Another 5 thousand hectares of saxaul will be planted by seeds in autumn,” he reminded. According to the Environmental Management, the authorities have purchased the equipment (tractors, seeding machines, water carriers, petrol tankers, watch-based machines and mobile kitchen trailers) totally worth 114.6 million tenge ($800 000) at the World Bank expenses to increase the planting area. Seedlings are being bred in Kazalinsk nursery with the use of drop irrigation equipment. It is planned to produce more than 4 million seeds and seedlings annually in the nearest future at this nursery. Black saxaul seedlings will constitute a major part of them.

“We have chosen saxaul not occasionally. Saxaul is a halophytic plant and it absorbs the salt. In addition it is quite unpretentious and doesn’t require watering and special care,” Kusherbay added. “We are planning to plant 7 thousand hectares this year in the framework of Zhassyl Damu (Green Development) regional program at the territory of state forest resources. 2.6 thousand hectares will fall at the drained sea bottom,” he said.

The Aral Sea is a lake between Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south. Formerly it was one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 square kilometres, but it started shrinking in the 1960s. By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size.

The region's once prosperous fishing industry has been essentially destroyed, bringing unemployment and economic hardship. The Aral Sea region is also heavily polluted, with consequent serious public health problems. The retreat of the sea has reportedly also caused local climate change, with summers becoming hotter and drier, and winters colder and longer.

In an ongoing effort in Kazakhstan to save and replenish the North Aral Sea, a dam project was completed in 2005; in 2008, the water level in this lake had risen by 24 m from its lowest level in 2007. Salinity has dropped, and fish are again found in sufficient numbers for some fishing to be viable. However, the outlook for the remnants of the South Aral Sea remains bleak. The shrinking of the Aral Sea has been called "one of the planet's worst environmental disasters".

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