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Its Economic and Cultural Significance

The Syr-Darya is a river in southern Kazakhstan, also known during the ancient times as the Jaxartes. It comprises a drainage area of approximately 320,000 square meters and a length of 1,850 miles of 2,980 kilometers. The river flows about 1,370 miles or 2,200 kilometers northeastward to the Sea of Aral. Naryn is the main headstream of the Syr Darya River, which begins from the Tianshan complex south of Lake Issykkul, about 12,000 feet of the Terskei Ala-tau. The river runs in a desolate longitudinal valley between the foothills of the Kokshal-tau and the Terskei Ala-tau, west-south-west at 11,000 to 10,000 feet above the sea.

Within the deep ravine, the river descends Fort Narynsk, 20 meters below the geographic point of the Great and Little Naryn. The river also passes through the Fergana Valley. Inhabitants of cities of Khokand, Namangan and Marghilan survive by waters of the Syr Darya River (“Syr-Darya”). The western border of the Syr Darya River flows southward along the Bukantau Mountains’ eastern slopes and then traverses the Golodnaya Steep Desert and the Peski Kyzylkumy Desert. The river then stretches down to the Turkestanskiy Range’s northern slopes, which are located west of the Fergana Valley.

The border of the lower and middle Syr Darya passes north along the northwestern part of Kuraminskiy, Pskemskiy and Chatkal’skiy ranges, as well as the primary range of the Karatau Mountains and Arys and Chirchik tributaries. It then traverses east of the Peski Muyunkumy Desert, the Kirgizskiy Range and the Chuyskaya Dolina Valley. The border also flows northwest along the Zhentyktas and Zhotyzhol ranges and Chu-Iliyskiy Gory Mountains and the Chu River drainage. Former Soviet Union states that the Syr Darya River passes through include Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan.

Major rivers and other bodies of water comprising the Lower and Middle Syr Darya ecoregion include Syr Darya River, Malyy Aral Sea, Arys River, Chirchik River, Angren River, Chu River, Sarysu River, Krasnorechenskiy Canal, Chardar’inskoye Reservoir, Bol’shoy Chui’skiy Canal, and irrigational canals and rivers of the Chuiskaya Valley. The Lower and Middle Syr Darya ecoregion begins where the river comes out from the Fergana Depression (Bogutskaya). Environmental Condition of the Syr Darya River The Syr Darya River is a key resource in Central Asia because it provides water for hydroelectric power and farming.

However, regional flooding was triggered by the melting of winter ice and a failure to comply with agreements pertaining to regional water use. The melting of winter ice was accelerated by the formed layers of salt and dust over the icecaps of the Pamirs and Tyan Shan, raising the level of water in the Syr-Darya. It is believed that cotton continues to play a role in the chemical environmental pollution of the Aral River basin (Wolfson & Komarov, 1994). Flooding in the Syr Darya occurs during the summer flood and ice jams and during spring flood in March and April due to melting of snow from the plain and foothills.

Various separate short floods happen in several parts of the drainage because of the uneven melting of alpine snows and glaciers. The second main flood starts in May and reaches the maximum flood in July. On the other hand, minimum flood happens in December and January (Bogutskaya). Figure 2: Syr Darya River Overflows, http://visibleearth. nasa. gov/view_rec. php? id=19102 The river system in Uzbekistan has sustained an interconnected system of irrigation to enable the production of an extensive range of agricultural products.

As the land area allotted to cotton production rose, demand for additional water increased, which led to the utilization of large amounts of water from the Syr Darya, Amu Darya and other rivers. These rivers are the primary source of inflow for the Sea of Aral. The overutilization of their waters has resulted to the environmental mismanagement of the Sea of Aral (Hanks, 2005). The mismanagement of water and land resources of the Sea of Aral has resulted to environmental degradation stretching beyond the Aral Sea to the total basin.

Some of the effects of environmental degradation include the increase in the salinity of the Syr Daria river and the Northern Aral Sea, occurrence of dust and salt storms and local climatic changes. The environmental effect has caused severe social and economic consequences, particularly the eradication of fish production in the Northern Aral Sea and in the delta and hay production, decline in the quality of drinking water, increase in health problems, decline in life expectancies, and lost of jobs in the agriculture, service and fishing sectors.

The rehabilitation of several hydraulic structures located on the Syr Darya is needed to increase the carrying capacity of Syr Darya. It is also important to remove some bottlenecks affecting the carrying capacity of the river to rehabilitate hydraulic structures. The restoration and building of hydraulic structures can result to a significant decline in salinity, thereby improving the environmental condition of the Sea of Aral and the Syr Darya River, improving the potential for fisheries, and enhancing the socio-economic situations in the vicinity.

It will also help regulate and enhance water management and control distribution to several water users. The rehabilitation of the Chardara Dam, the largest hydraulic structures on Syr Darya, would cause decreased water losses, increased production of hydropower, and guaranteed supplies of water for irrigation (“Improving River). Factors contributing to the surface runoff of the Syr Darya basin include duration, stability and thickness of seasonal snow, and the spatial redistribution and interannual precipitation.

The main contributor of water pollution is the crop agriculture because of the increasing use of pesticides and insecticides. The key environmental issue in the basin is the damage of natural ecosystems in the Syr Darya delta. The environmental issue regarding the flooding is being addressed by diverting the additional water to Arnasay depression and continuing the practice of translocation of the water into the depression. However, there is a need to construct more sewage water treatment plants in order to address the chemical pollution of the water in the basin (Savoskul et al. , 2003).

Economic significance of the Syr Darya River About 20 million people live in the Syr Darya River basin, of which 73% of the people live in rural areas where agriculture is their primary way of living. Fifty-five percent of the land area is utilized as pastures that support livestock of camels, horses, cattle, sheep, and goats, while eight percent of the land area is utilized for the production of crop. Soils are infertile and thin but it can be used for particular crops with enough irrigation. Climate in the Syr Darya River basin is hot and arid but it is more cool and humid in the mountains.

Major agricultural crops in the Syr Darya Basin include potatoes, wheat and cotton (Savoskul et al. , 2003). A conflict emerged concerning the use and distribution of the waters of the Syr Darya river after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, leaving Central Asian Republics with major political and economic complexities for the region. Kyrgyzstan is responsible for operating the Toktogul Reservoir to enable the production of hydropower. It has a substantive potential for hydropower production, which covers up to 80 percent of its domestic energy requirements.

Exports of hydropower comprise for about ten percent of the region’s total exports with an estimated value of $46. 8 million in 2001. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan extract water from the Syr Darya River to irrigate their cotton fields. Irrigated cotton farming is the prime economic activity in Uzbekistan, which is the second largest exporter of cotton in the world with a market share of about 10 percent. The Syr Darya River has substantive regional value to the Kazakh region, even though it is relatively low in terms of its economic importance to the oil-dominated region (Abbink, Moller & O’Hara, 2005).

The water of the Syr Darya River is described by high turbidity of about 2000 g/cubic meter. Swamps covered by reeds are formed in the estuary areas of the Syr Darya ecoregion during high levels of subsoil waters and long inundations. The native fauna found in the Syr Darya River comprises over forty species originating from nine families. Fishes of the Syr Darya River have adjusted to live in a stable flow of water with high turbidity. Pseudoscaphirhynchus fedtschenkoi shows its capability to adapt to life in turbid water.

However, water in Syr Darya has become much more transparent after the building of river channel reservoirs negatively impacting this species (Bogutskaya). The impact of Uzbek reservoirs on the economies of the Syr Darya ecoregion relies on two issues: alteration of the seasonal allocation of water availability in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for any given allocation by Kyrgyzstan and alteration of the possibility of regional cooperation by modified parameters. Another effect of the new reservoirs is that the median efficiency improvement of about $32.

7 million annually for the low-water years was observed and no remarkable effect for normal and high-water years. To address the conflict in water management, a centralization of institutional arrangements was coordinated by the Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Resources in Moscow (Savoskul et al. , 2003). . Cultural Significance of the Syr Darya River basin The cultures of Central Asia have been formed by different civilizations: Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Christian, and Islamic.

They have also been formed through years of interactions between sedentary people and nomads, and an intersection of Persian and Turkic cultures. Religious study and interaction played a key role in the development of spiritual life of societies in the Central Asia, shaping their varied traditions and cultures. The major contribution of nomads includes the preservation of various ancient Mongol and Turkic traditions, while the cultural traditions of Islam and Persia significantly influenced the Turkic-speaking societies in the region (Abazov, 2007).

The main historical core of Central Asia can be found in the river basins: the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya. The pastoral civilization of the Central Asia can be found in the northeast of the Syr Darya River because many cities thrived in this area. It was known as Turkic Jety-suu, which means the area of seven rivers. Several Turkic-speaking Karakhhanids settled in the river and the Seljuk’s Empire had formed a strong base around the river basin.

The tribes of Karalkalpak dominated the area of the Syr Darya’s lower delta, although they regularly transferred to the south and north of Syr Darya River area because of the pressure from neighbors and ecological changes, like desertification and droughts. The Turkic carpets in Central Asia are categorized in two groups: the Turkmen or Turkoman handmade carpets and carpets made in the Jetisuu, which is situated in the north and east of the Syr Darya River basin. The Jetisuu carpets were made by Kyrgyzs and Kazakhs.

The residents of the Syr Darya River basin usually end their long days of work with a meal in chaikhana and listening to folk songs, such as gazels, maquma or epics. The folk songs are usually performed by professional or semiprofessional bards and accompanied by several musical instruments, such as rubab or dombra (Abazov, 2007). The economic and cultural importance of the Syr Darya River basin can be accounted by its richness of land areas, soil and water resources and its important role in providing irrigation and hydropower production to the region.

It is important for the residents of the Syr Darya River basin to limit or be vigilant in their use of chemicals to avoid the damage of natural ecosystems and to resolve the issue pertaining to conflict in water management. List of References Abazov, Rafis (2007). Culture and Customs of the Central Asian Republics. Westport, Connecticut: GreenWood Publishing Group. Abbink, Klaus, Moller, Lars Christian & O’Hara, Sarah (2005). The Syr Darya River conflict: an experimental case study.

Retrieved April 25, 2009, from http://www. nottingham. ac. uk/economics/cedex/papers/2005-14. pdf. Bogutskaya, Nina. Lower & Middle Syr Darya. Retrieved April 25, 2009, from http://www. feow. org/ecoregion_details. php? eco=626. Hanks, Reuel R. (2005). Central Asia: A Global Studies Handbook. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. Savoskul, Oxana S. , Chevnina, Elena V. , Perziger, Felix I. , Vasilina, Ludmia Yu. , Baburin, Viacheslav L. , & Danshin, Alexander I. (2003). Water, Climate, Food, and Environment in the Syr Darya Basin.

Retrieved April 27, 2009, from http://www. pdf. Floods Along the Syr Darya River, Kazakhstan. Retrieved April 25, 2009, from http://visibleearth. nasa. gov/view_rec. php? id=6169. Improving River Regulation to Restore Ecosystems and Improve Livelihood in Syr Darya Basin of Kazakhstan. Retrieved April 25, 2009, from httpp://web. worldbank. org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/ECAEXT/EXTECASUMECSSD/0.. contentMDK:20766245~pagePK:51241019~theSitePK:1587162. 00. html. Syr-Darya River. Retrieved April 25, 2009, from http://www. 1911encyclopedia. org/Syr-Darya_River.

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