Friday, December 29, 2023

Kazakhstan’s Lake Balkhash May Soon Die as Aral Sea Already Has

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 27 – Yet another body of water in Central Asia is at risk of disappearing in the coming decades. That is Lake Balkhash in Kazakhstan which is seeing its water levels decline because of climate change, increased use of water by countries living along the rivers that feed it, and the risk that Astana will build a nuclear power plant using its water as coolant.

            If the first two threats have long been identified, the third is coming into focus after Russia pushed for it to become the contractor for such a project, and the Almaty region earlier this fall agreed to build the plant on Lake Balkhash. That has provoked protests, and Kazakhstan President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev has now called for a referendum on the issue.

            It is unclear what the results of any such vote will be, but if the construction of the plant is approved and goes forward, Lake Balkhash will see its flora and fauna disappear, as the plant warms its shallow waters; and China is likely to reduce still further the flow of the Ili River which feeds the lake (

            That will kill off the lake far faster than similar decisions and processes did the Aral Sea because Lake Balkhash is so much shallower – most of it is no deeper than six meters – and thus spark an epidemiological crisis in the region as well as destroying some or all of the industry and agriculture around the lake.

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