Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Co-ordination of scientific activities towards elaboration of common strategy for environmental protection and sustainable management in Syr Darya River Basin, in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan

Final Report Summary - SYR DARYA (Co-ordination of scientific activities towards elaboration of common strategy for environmental protection ... in Syr Darya River Basin, in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan)

The SYR DARYA project was a 'co-ordination of scientific activities towards elaboration of common strategy for environmental protection and sustainable management in Syr Darya River Basin, in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan'. Under the project, various areas around the Basin were studied, in terms of their characteristics of population, animal life, geology, geomorphology, hydrology etc and the levels of local awareness in environmental sustainability issues.

Four study areas located in the territory of Kazakhstan were finally selected during the first workshop of the Syr Darya project progress and realisation. Each of study area is characterised by different natural conditions and various anthropo-pressure.

1. The Keles river basin (study site No 2) is located in south-east part of Kazakhstan in Kazygurt and Saryagash regions. The majority of soils of this study area is affected by erosion processes.
2. Kazakhstan's part of Golodnaya Steppe (study site No 6) is located south from Chardara Reservoir (middle flow of Syr-Darya river) and cover completely the territory of Mahtaaralsky part of South Kazakhstan region. It is an area of intensive agricultural land use with well developed irrigation system using for cotton growing.
3. Chardarinsky Massif (study site No 4) covers the territory north from Chardara reservoir. From the east site this study area is bordered by Saryagash region. Chardarinsky massif is flat and homogenous part of South-Kazakhstan region. This region is characterised by intensive agriculture with cotton and rice as the dominating crops.
4. Shielysky Massif (study site No 5) is a part of Kyzyl-Orda Region located in predelta of Syr-Darya River. This region is completely occupied by the rice production. Current soil status of Golodnaya Steppe, Chardarinsky and Shielyski territories is characterised by secondary soil salinisation and flooding processes due to devastation of collector-drainage systems. Moreover, the soil and crops pollution with heavy metals is observed.

The extensive development of irrigated agriculture in the basin of the Syr Darya Region, especially in the middle flow of the river, has led to a considerable reduce of water resources volume in the region. The volume of the runoff decreased to 3.0 km3 during the years of intensive land development between the hydro posts Chardara and Tomenaryk. The water resources of the Keles River were highly decreased in 1960s. Therefore, the influence of Keles massif on the reduction of Syr Darya river runoff was estimated by the increase of water intake volume from the river Chirchik by the canals Zakh and Khanym. The volume increased by 1,5 times during this period of time. The areas of arable lands have increased by 1,02 times. It, of course, has led to the improvement of water submission and to the increase of water intake, respectively. The total volume of water intake by the objects of researches has increased by 1,7 times and made up 4 802,77 mln m3 according to the data for these years. The annual water intake has reduced by 1,1 times and makes up 4 317,98 mln m3. It is caused by the reduction of arable lands areas (by 1,09 times), aggravation of their amelioration conditions and non-use of some lands in agriculture. The major part of irrigation and tail-drain network is now in unsatisfactory condition. It has led to the increase of water loss now. The difference between the water intake from the rivers and water supply of the fields achieves significant values - from 13,8 % to 35.1 %. A tendency of tail-drain runoff volume increase is observed. The volume of tail-drain waters made up 679,85 mln m3 in 2005. The maximum volume of drainage runoff achieved 46,7 % of water-submission volume. It could be concluded that the increase of irrigated areas and their water-supply during the years of 'great amelioration' had both positive and negative sides. It resulted in the increase of irrevocable water consumption, rise of ground water level, aggravation of soil-ameliorative conditions and decrease of crops yielding ability.

Under the conditions of irrigated agrocoenoses, anthropogenic activity is a powerful factor of development not only for a cultural landscape, but it greatly influences on the condition of natural system of the whole region. 806,8 thousand ha or 47,7 % of the whole surveyed territory are subjected to wind erosion. Wind erosion is greatly displayed in the west of Chardara and Shieli massifs, where the weakly fixed sands of the vast Kyzylkum sandy massif prevail. 402,5 thousand ha or 19,7 % of the whole surveyed territory of the region 2 041,9 thousand ha are subjected to water erosion. Water and irrigation erosion are greatly developed in the basin of the Keles River. The analysis of soil-ameliorative conditions at the main irrigated massifs has shown that a catastrophic worsening of ameliorative condition of irrigated soils took place in the region. More than the half of all surveyed soil areas (303.6 thousand ha) have saline soils (52,2 %).Approximately the same share is occupied by the areas with ground waters, occurring higher than the critical depth and mineralisation. It caused the appearance of un-used lands, subjected to salinisation and bogging. 6 665 ha are not used because of their salinisation and bogging. The irreversible degradation of soils is in process on the irrigated lands of the region, leading to the full loss of their fertility and transformation of fertile oases into vast saline deserts. The main threatening factors in the researched region:
- reduction of the rivers runoff volume and as a result the deficit of fresh irrigation water;
- menacing scales of salinisation and bogging of soils at the irrigated massifs and adjacent territories;
- development of wind and water erosion including irrigational one;
- worsening of irrigation water;
- reduction of arable lands areas due to soil cover degradation;
- the beginning of local soils and agricultural products contamination by heavy metals and as a result the reduction of qualitative and quantitative composition of flora and fauna, reduction of biodiversity.

Ecological education (EE) in tested regions and in Kazakhstan is performed for sustainable development and should be continuing. Consequent components of continuous EE should contain: folk pedagogies, pre-school education, secondary education, vocational and technical education, higher (university) education, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governmental structures, international cooperation. There are good reasons to create a common methodical centre of eco-education in Central Asia to accumulate programmes, handbooks and methodical papers for all levels. It is useful to form a united system of eco-education for all age groups using new teaching methods of different countries through adaptation them to national eco-conditions. It is necessary to found intersectoral, many-sided methodical councils (commissions) including representatives of Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Education, NGOs, international organisations and certificate institutions. At this stage it is possible to create Central Asia office on the base of Regional Ecological Centre with is planning to include educational component in its activity. It is recommended to organise national and local centres of eco-education in countries, cities and region, think of the program of regional financial support of eco-education and to develop the engagement of worldwide NGOs in environmental education.