The holistic approach that is woven through all the policies and initiatives of Turkmenistan was at display on Thursday (28 February 2019) when President Berdymuhamedov visited Altyn Asyr, the fifth largest manmade lake in the world.
He was accompanied by his cabinet team and some top officials.
The heads of international organizations based in Turkmenistan and some diplomatic missions were especially invited to look at the transformation taking place in the Karakum desert because of the lake that feeds on the wastewater from the agricultural fields across the country. — Elena Panova, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Turkmenistan, Natalia Gherman, head of the United Nations Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, UNICEF Representative in Turkmenistan, Shahin Nilofer, head of the OSCE Center in Ashgabat Natalia Drozd, Acting Permanent Representative in Turkmenistan Development Program UN Natia Natsvlishvili, Director of WHO office in Turkmenistan Paulina Karvovska, and Charge d’affaires ad interim of the European Union office in Turkmenistan Lubomir Frebord and etc.
A presentation was given on the plans for the development of the Altyn Asyr Lake Region.
The Turkmen president described the main features and the present and expected benefits of the Altyn Asyr Lake. He also spoke about the growing role of water diplomacy and how Turkmenistan is playing its role as a responsible state in the region and the world.
Here is the summary of his remarks:
The water issues are the most important in Central Asia. In some cases, they are the determining factor in the development of the regional processes. The development of the states in our region, their economy, social sector, the level of well-being and quality of life of the people are directly dependent on the access to water resources and their effective management.
The related issues should be resolved, firstly on the basis of the generally accepted norms of the international law, secondly, taking into account the interests of each of the Central Asian state, and thirdly, with the active participation of the international organizations. — This is our principled position and relying on it, we will continue to work on the establishment of effective cooperation mechanism among our countries, including in the framework of IFAS (international fund for saving the Aral Sea).
The Aral problem, the root cause of which was the changes in the hydrological regime of the rivers of the basin, is now recognized worldwide as one of the largest global environmental disasters in recent history. The consequences of the ecological catastrophe caused by the irrational use of water resources affected the living conditions of many millions of people living in the Aral Sea basin.
Moreover, the processes of degradation of natural resources caused by intensive shallowing of the Aral Sea, including desertification of coastal areas, deterioration in the quality of natural pastures, soil salinization, the formation of salt marshes and, as a result, a decrease in biological diversity, threaten not only Central Asia, but also adjacent territories.
The situation is aggravated by global climate change taking place on the planet, which increases the risk of dangerous and extreme natural phenomena, such as droughts and dust storms. All of this in general adversely affects the development of agriculture, irrigated agriculture, livestock and other sectors of the economy, creates a threat to the food and energy security of states, and reduces the attractiveness of tourism.
For its part, Turkmenistan is taking concrete measures to improve the socio-ecological situation in the Aral Sea basin. So, in Dashoguz province, the most susceptible to the negative impact of the environmental crisis, the issues of providing the population with clean drinking water are systematically solved, and massive forest planting is being carried out. In this regard, the implementation of the Turkmen Lake construction project plays a key role in ensuring environmental well-being in the region.
It is obvious that the relevance of the Aral issues goes far beyond Central Asia, and therefore it is necessary to create a solid foundation for systemic interstate cooperation with active interaction with authoritative international organizations, and above all, the UN. This is the goal of Turkmenistan’s initiative to develop a UN Special Program for the Aral Sea Basin, designed to provide an integrated approach to solving the problems of the Aral crisis with the broad participation of all stakeholders.
A new impetus to cooperation in this field was given during the Summit of Heads of the Founding States of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea held in the Avaza National Tourist Zone last year. As is known, the last such five-sided summit meeting took place almost ten years ago and the issues accumulated during this period related to the situation in the Aral Sea region and far beyond its limits required a detailed discussion at the highest state level.
If we solve water problems, then at the same time other issues related to the provision of integrated security will be solved – food, environmental, and creating favorable conditions for the safe life of people.
Everything that we are doing in this area is done for the people, our descendants, the youth, for their happy life.
Development Plans for Altyn Asyr Lake Region
The DPM for agriculture and some other top officials gave presentations for the development of the Altyn Asyr Lake Region for the period 2019-2025. These plans cover the lake and its surrounding areas.
Initially the private sector will be allowed to harvest fish from the lake and later they will build hatcheries for releasing fingerlings into the lake. There will also be the facilities for storage and processing of fish.
The biological methods such as cultivation of aquatic plants will be used to absorb the organic matter, suspensions and pesticides from the lake water. Successful experiments have been carried out by introducing floating bioplato into the main canal already.
A modern village will be built near the lake for the people engaged in animal husbandry, fish farming, agriculture and other activities dependent on the lake and its surrounding areas. The village will occupy an area of 68.8 hectares. In the first phase, 104 houses will be built and the second phase will add 108 more houses. There will be a school for 320 students, a kindergarten for 160 kids, a healthcare centre, shopping centre, community centre and other facilities.
Electricity transmission lines of 160 km length will be built from the Serdar substation to provide the power to the village.
The institute of solar energy will install solar panels in the village. Experimental units for wind energy will also be placed in the village.
A gas pipeline will be built for providing the natural gas to the village. It will supply 30000 cubic meters of gas per hour. The main pipeline will be 35 km in length and 325 mm in diameters. The secondary pipeline will be 125 km in length and 219 mm in diameters.
The telecommunications facilities will include the availability of the TV, radio and transmissions and Altyn Asyr cell phone network.
A two-lane road of 170 km in length will be built from the Serdar city to the village. Some 40 km of road has been built already and work is underway on another 65 km.
The soil and the conditions are suitable for the cultivation of melons and watermelons.
About Altyn Asyr Lake
The Altyn Asyr Lake is an ambitious project of Turkmenistan, bringing the agricultural wastewater from all the five provinces through an elaborate network of canals to the Garashor depression of the Karakum desert where the lake is being developed over a period of 15 years.
The first phase was completed in 2009 and currently the work is in progress on the second phase.
The pool of machinery and equipment for the construction of the lake consists of more than 1500 excavators, bulldozers, tractors, and other units of earthmoving machinery. The main suppliers of the machinery are Komatsu (Japan) and Caterpillar (USA).
So far the government has spent USD 553.378 million on the lake project.
The planned length is 103 km, width 18.6 km, and average depth 70 meters. The lake, on completion, will have the capacity to hold 132 cubic kilometers of water. This will make it the fifth largest manmade lake in the world, just ahead of Lake Nasser of Egypt.
The first phase was completed on 15 July 2009. It consists of two main canals, one from Dashoguz with length of 386 km, and the other from Lebap with length 720 km, which also connects with the Mary, Ahal and Balkan provinces. Smaller channels contribute to this 720-km canal.
The total length of the collector canals is 2659 km including the 1553 km main canal and its sub-channels. The discharge into the lake is 970 million cubic meters.
The conditions in the lake are already suitable for the flora and fauna.
Some migratory birds have started landing at the lake.
In the vicinity of the lake, some animals listed in the Red Book of Turkmenistan, such as the Ustyurt mountain sheep, kulan, and gazelle are found in growing numbers.
The surrounding areas are turning into 8.6 million hectares of grazing land and forest-like growth. This can afford to sustain about 4.6 million sheep and goat and 60000 camels. In addition, it is possible to cultivate Sudan grass, barley, millet and other forage crops.
At present about 25 species of fish are thriving in the lake including carp, bream, roach, asp, grass carp, catfish, pike perch, crucian carp, Turkestan and Aral barbel, white and motley silver carp, pike, sabrefish, snakehead, etc. /// nCa, 1 March 2019