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Man-made lake appears in Karakum Desert
Altyn Asyr Lake materialised in the middle of the Karakum Desert, one of the world’s largest. The first stage of a project to create a man-made lake in Turkmenistan was completed earlier this month when water began to flow into the desert’s Karashor depression.
TURKMENISTAN — Altyn Asyr Lake materialised in the middle of the Karakum desert, one of the world’s largest. The first stage of a project to create a man-made lake in Turkmenistan was completed earlier this month when water began to flow into the desert’s Karashor depression, close to the town of Yaila.
Drainage water from farmland will flow along numerous channels in the natural Karashor depression. The irrigation channels from which water will enter Altyn Asyr have a combined length of more than 2,500km. The lake will be more than 100km in length and around 19km wide.
A toxic mixture of pesticides, chemicals and other hazardous substances used to flow together with drainage water into the Karakum Desert close to oases, which led to the degradation of pasture-land and environmental damage in these regions. The project to create Altyn Asyr Lake was launched in 2000 and it will be completed by the end of 2020 at an estimated cost of US$1 billion. Some independent experts assert that the real figure will be at least four times greater. The project is funded by the government. Foreign investors have not yet put any money into this large-scale and expensive experiment, perhaps because they are afraid of losing it in the sand.
Water shortage is a serious problem in Turkmenistan; 70 percent of its territory is desert. The shortage was dealt with partially during the Soviet era by means of an 1100km channel across the Karakum that stretched from the left bank of the Amu Darya to Kazandzhik. In recent years, experts concluded that the country’s water resources were diminishing once again and looked to the new lake to offset shortages.
The recycled water will be cleaned by natural means as it passes across a 10km sand bed and through a “filter” of reeds. Experts have also devised a number of technical filters for the recycling of drainage water, which will make it fit for human consumption.