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Balkhash lake might shrink to 10% of its size

05 february 2013, 20:26
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Satellite picture of Balkhash lake. Photo courtesy of NASA
Satellite picture of Balkhash lake. Photo courtesy of NASA
Balkhash lake in south-east of Kazakhstan might shrink by almost 90 percent by the middle of this century, Interfax-Kazakhstan reports citing Ainur Kuatova, Advisor to Kazakhstan Environmental Protection Minister, as saying with a reference to critical forecasts of international experts.

"McKinsey expert group was analyzing scenarios of development of the unique Kazakhstan's natural reservoir, Balkhash lake, and received the following results: according to UN Environmental Program, the scenario of China's and Kazakhstan's accelerated development suggests that Balkhash lake may lose up to 86 percent of its water reserves by 2045, which will mean a huge environmental disaster for Kazakhstan," she said at a meeting in the Environmental Protection Ministry in Astana.

According to Kuatova, the water inflow to Balkhash is decreasing 2-3-fold every year and this trend will remain until 2030. "Currently China and Uzbekistan are major suppliers of water resources to our country (through transborder rivers). But the two countries' own demand for water is an expected to sharply surge by 2030, which will create additional risks for Kazakhstan's water supply," Kuatov said.

She said that according to the experts' forecasts the water demand in China would grow from the current 555 billion cubic meters to 818 billion cubic meters in 2030. The trend may cause a radical decrease of the water level in the Ili River that supplies almost 80 percent of the water flow to Balkhash lake.

"These negative forecasts increase the urgency of adoption of new more effective mechanisms of decision-making in water security at the interstate level with involvement of leading Kazakhstan and international experts," she said.

Balkhash is an enclosed semi-fresh water lake in Balkhash-Alakol watersink. It is ranked 13th in the list of the world's biggest lakes. Its uniqueness is that it is divided in two parts by a narrow strait and water in each part has its own chemical characteristics: it is almost fresh in the western part and saline in the eastern one.

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