Will Koksarai save the Shardara reservoir?
21/04/2004, Daniel Shemratov
The government of Kazakhstan made a decision on constructing Koksarai counter-regulator, as a cardinal mechanism for resolving the problem of seasonal repletion of the Shardara water reservoir and floods in Syrdaria lower reaches.
You are reminded that the main problem in South Kazakhstan is that water surpluses come from Kyrgyz rivers to the Shardara water reservoir, which even the main Kazakhstan river - Syrdaria, can't discharge.
At the same time there is not enough water in Shardara in summer and a lot of territories suitable for agriculture remain without irrigation and therefore uncultivated.
Until recently Kazakhstan tried to resolve the same problem through negotiations and agreements with regional partners - Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. However, the last winter showed clearly that the interests of the parties in developing the interregional hydro-system sometimes directly contradict each other. And although by last February the parties still managed to reach consensus, there are more and more people who are dissatisfied with its results (let's remember at least Kyrgyz deputies, who tried to force their government to raise a claim to Kazakhstan for losses supposedly borne by Kyrgyzstan after the reduction of Naryn hydroelectric power stations work.) Therefore it is not excluded that the next year the situation may repeat itself and then it will be much more difficult to reach agreement. That is why in the same month of February, the committee of water resources announced about a decision to construct another water reservoir in South Kazakhstan not far from Koksarai village,- the so called Koksarai counter-regulator.
The idea is not new and it first appeared in the Soviet times. The main task of Koksarai water reservoir (or the counter-regulator), was to provide a seasonal reserve reservoir in which water surpluses from Naryn water system would be accumulated so that in summer the water resources would be fully used for the irrigation of cultivated land. Moreover, in summer the Koksarai reservoir would find itself completely without water, and its area according to the designers, would turn into wonderful pastures.
However this beauty was not realised in Soviet times. Mainly because nobody knew about the threat of inundation in Syrdaria lower reaches then. Again, there were purely technical difficulties in realising the project, - in essence, there are not natural conditions for creating a lake under Koksarai. The place is a typical steppe almost completely flat (apart from an insignificant slope on the so called Turkestani plain, at the expense of which the counter-regulator is planned to be filled with water). To create an artificial lake either a ditch will be needed here, but then the water self-flow from the lake in any time convenient for irrigation is excluded. That is, additional, costly and power-consuming system for pumping water out. Or else - surrounding the space with a round dam - making a sort of a bathroom in the centre of the plain. This is not a cheap task, but, according to specialists much more profitable and preferable, than digging a ditch. However, now when Koksarai is built Kazakhstan will have to resolve the same technical difficulties. Most likely, the volume of counter-regulator will be brought to the necessary size (around 2 billion cubic metres) at the expense of digging a ditch, as well as by means of dam construction.
There are also arguments of environmentalists, many of which are categorically against the construction of Koksarai counter-regulator. The point is that even after an inundation (even a seasonal one) of a section of the steppe some species of steppen flora and fauna may find themselves under the threat of extermination.
And specialists from ecological services are sure that there is a whole number of scarcely known and even non-discovered representatives of the animal and plant world that are inherent to our region. And all possible big scale changes in the landscape like the lake construction can be killing for certain types of the animal and plant world.
After the creation of water reservoir in Koksarai area, according to environmentalists, the water circulation balance will be disrupted. In particular, ground waters will rise bringing up to the surface tons of nitrates and pesticides, with which cotton fields were sprayed in the past to protect them against the insects. If the events take such course then in the first year of Koksarai operations, when chemicals are washed away from the soil, we are risking to not accumulate the additional volumes of water at all, but also to lose the existing ones - poisoning Syrdaria. These are tactical negative aspects. There are also strategic reasons for concern.
The Shardara water reservoir, the Arnasai depression, that is actively and uncontrollably growing in the last few years due to an uncontrolled water discharge - all these are artificial water reservoirs, which, according to ecologists, could not generally influence the regional climate.
In particular, the climate in South Kazakhstan became more humid. And spring showers, previously uncharacteristic of this region, but for quite a few years disturbing the local cotton growers, - are a typical confirmation to this. Creating another water mirror will only aggravate this situation.
Besides the "reaction" of the Koksarai soil section itself to water remains unknown. It is well-known that the bottom of any water reservoir have a tendency to silting being overgrown with slime and reed. And given that the Koksarai is a water reservoir without outflows, then, even the most precise theoretical calculations can be far from real effect.
And the Koksarai can turn from a lake into a swamp…