Turkmen scientist proposes ideas to save Aral Sea

Dr. Allaberdy Ilyasov stated that the disappearance of the sea is fraught not only with economic losses, but also with health problems.

In an interview to CentralAsia.news a well-known Turkmen scientist, Doctor of Technical Sciences and expert Allaberdy Ilyasov, analyzed the problem of the drying up of the Aral Sea. Earlier the scientist raised acute issues of respect for the water sources of the planet, which in modern realities are gaining a global scale.

More than just an environmental disaster

The drying up of the Aral Sea is one of the ecological disasters. Most of the water basin has already evaporated, and intense wind erosion is occurring from the drying sea zone to the adjacent irrigated areas, thereby leading to huge economic losses in agriculture and serious health problems for the population. The problem of the Aral Sea has been troubling the world community for many years, and it remains relevant to this day.

International initiatives of Turkmenistan

The preservation and restoration of water and other natural resources, the fight against desertification, land degradation, and climate change are among the key areas of international cooperation of Turkmenistan, which initiates constructive solutions to global environmental problems for the well-being of present and future generations.

In particular, at the initiative of Turkmenistan, in 2018 and 2019, UN Resolutions on cooperation between the United Nations and the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea were adopted. These documents were a significant step towards the formation of a legal basis for interaction between the UN and IFAS on a systematic basis. By the decree of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov dated October 22 of this year, the National Program of Turkmenistan for the Aral Sea for 2021-2025 was approved.

Geographical area of the Aral Sea region

There are quite a few zones on the globe where the economy is experiencing a shortage of water resources, but this problem is especially relevant for countries in which agricultural irrigation is used, and where the problem of water resources is complemented by high growth rates and high population density.

The problem of water resources takes place in countries located in the arid zone, the development of the agricultural economy of which is fully or largely based on the use of water sources. Such areas with a characteristic shortage of water resources include the countries located in the Aral Sea basin, which geographically form the Central Asian region in the very center of Eurasia.

In addition to purely physical factors of a shortage of water resources, the problem is complicated with a deterioration in the ecological state of the region caused by a decrease in runoff into the Aral Sea. Its shallowing is progressing and, as a consequence, the development of aeolian processes, accompanied by dust storms carrying salt fractions for many thousands of kilometers.

Life support system of the dying sea

The water resources of the Aral Sea region consist of renewable surface and groundwater. The sea level has always depended on the volume of flow of the two most important rivers of the Aral basin — the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, which originate in the Pamir and Tien Shan mountains.

In one of its sections, the Amu Darya is a border river between Afghanistan and the Central Asian states. Further, the Amu Darya flows through Turkmenistan, a significant part of the territory of Uzbekistan and through the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan (Uzbekistan), before it flows into the Aral Sea.

Despite the gradual recovery, it is too early to talk about the return of the former sea area. The fact that experts pay attention to is the high salt content. Its level in some areas is four times higher than in the World Ocean.

Now there is a landscape that looks more like a desert. Its surface is covered with a thick layer of salt, and the particles rise into the air and are carried for hundreds of kilometers. The air is literally saturated with salt, and the entire Caspian region has to breathe it. This is causing concern throughout Central Asia.

We need constructive solutions

Currently, experts are thinking about how to raise the water level in the Aral Sea. Scientists understand that it is impossible to cover the entire area. It is also difficult to conserve water by limiting the irrigation of fields from rivers flowing into a natural body of water.

The most stable sources of water resources are groundwater. Most often, the water used for irrigation comes from groundwater sources. This often opens up great opportunities, especially for regions with no other sources.

The main measures to reduce water shortages are well known. This is the improvement of the reclamation state of the irrigated lands used, the improvement of the technical level of the irrigation network, the reconstruction of existing systems, the improvement of irrigation equipment and technology, the increase in the discipline of water use, and an increase in the capacity of reservoirs from large sources and small rivers.

Water potential of Turkmenistan

The resources of small rivers are very diverse, and their importance cannot be overestimated from an ecological, social and economic point of view. Each river, the properties and characteristics of which are in many ways typical of small rivers, is unique. Recently, the problem of more complete use of the resources of small streams and reservoirs for the purposes of water supply and irrigation has got particular relevance.

The total volume of the water potential of Turkmenistan consists of the surface runoff of the Amu Darya, Murgab, Tejen, Atrek, Sumbar, Chandir rivers, as well as small watercourses of the north-eastern slopes of the Kopetdag and Koytendag mountains, springs and small volumes of underground and collector-drainage waters. One of the promising areas of sources for replenishing fresh water reserves is the off-season regulation of the flows of small rivers (springs and shallow streams) at their mouths by creating cascade basins for the accumulation of fresh water.

Basically, surface water resources that make up the water balance of Turkmenistan are formed outside its borders and are inherently transboundary. The Amu Darya is the most important source of water needed both to meet the needs of the growing population and for the development of all sectors of the country’s economy. The Karakum River is also of primary importance for agriculture.

Good ideas

Groundwater is the most stable source of water resources for drylands. Most often, the water used for irrigation comes from underground sources, and opens up great opportunities, especially for regions that do not have other water resources.

One of the ideas put forward by ecologists is the reconstruction of existing irrigation canals. If all the envisaged measures are implemented, this will lead to an improvement in the environmental situation. Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, there is no need to wait for results, and everything also depends on the involvement of the population, especially young people. But in the near future there is an opportunity to see the results of the work done. Therefore, on the dried bottom of the Aral Sea, it is advisable to carry out  hydrogeological survey work  in order to detect underground water lenses.

For this, it is best to apply the experience of Israel, Egypt, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates and other countries facing similar problems and their solutions on this issue. After survey work, it is necessary to build group water supply systems. With the help of the wells of the group water supply systems, the produced groundwater is transported through the pipe water supply modules of artificial reservoirs for further use in irrigation and other needs, as well as in order to restore the ecosystem of the Aral Sea.

09 ноя 2021, 08:59

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Allaberdi Ilyasov

Photo source: CentralAsia.news

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