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Lake Balkhash ( kk, Балқаш көлі, ''Balqaş kóli'', ; russian: озеро Балхаш, ozero Balkhash) is one of the largest lakes in Asia and 15th largest in the world. It is in the east of
Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north, including the former Soviet Union, Soviet republics of the Sov ...

Central Asia
in southeastern
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
and sits in an
endorheic An endorheic basin (; also spelled endoreic basin or endorreic basin) is a drainage basin A drainage basin is any area of land where precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences Atmospheri ...
(closed) basin. The basin drains seven rivers, the primary of which is the
Ili Ili, ILI, Illi may refer to: Abbreviations * Irish Life International, part of Irish Life and Permanent * Intuitive Logical Introvert, a personality type in socionics * Influenza-like illness * Iran Language Institute, a state-owned, non-profit o ...
, bringing most of the
riparian A riparian zone or riparian area is the interface between land and a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases, a river flows into the gro ...
inflow; others, such as the
Karatal The Karatal (russian: Каратал, ''Karatal''; Khalkha Mongolian The Khalkha dialect (Mongolian script The classical or traditional Mongolian script, also known as the , was the first Mongolian alphabet, writing system created specifically ...

Karatal
, bring surface and
subsurface flow Subsurface flow, in hydrology Hydrology (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast E ...
. The Ili is fed by
precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the (which include and ), with a major focus on . The study of meteorology dates back , though significant progress in meteorology did not begin until the 18th century. The 19th century saw mod ...
, largely vernal snowmelt, from the mountains of China's
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

Xinjiang
region. The lake currently covers about . However, like the
Aral Sea The Aral Sea (Aral ; kk, Aral teńizi, Арал теңізі, uz, Orol dengizi, Орол денгизи, kaa, Aral ten'izi, Арал теңизи, russian: Аральское море) was an endorheic lake lying between Kazakhstan Kaza ...

Aral Sea
, it is shrinking due to diversion and extraction of water from its feeders. The lake has a narrow, quite central,
strait A strait is a naturally formed, narrowing, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. The surface water generally flows at the same elevation on both sides and through the strait in either direction. Most commonly i ...

strait
. The lake's western part is
fresh water Fresh water or freshwater is any naturally occurring liquid or frozen water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an , transparent, tasteless, odorless, and , which is the main constituent of 's and the s of all known living organisms (in ...

fresh water
. The lake's eastern half is saline. The east is on average 1.7 times deeper than the west. The largest shore city is named Balkhash and has about 66,000 inhabitants. Main local economic activities include mining, ore processing and fishing. There is concern about the lake's shallowing due to
desertification Desertification is a type of land degradation Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. It is viewed as any change or distu ...
of
microclimate A microclimate (or micro-climate) is a local set of atmospheric An atmosphere (from the greek words ἀτμός ''(atmos)'', meaning 'vapour', and σφαῖρα ''(sphaira)'', meaning 'ball' or 'sphere') is a layer or a set of layers of ...
s and water extraction for multiplied industrial output.


History and naming

The present name of the lake originates from the word "balkas" of
Tatar The Tatars (; tt, , , , crh, tatarlar; otk, 𐱃𐱃𐰺, Tatar) is an umbrella term for different Turkic peoples, Turkic ethnic groups bearing the name "Tatar." Initially, the ethnonym ''Tatar'' possibly referred to the Tatar confederation ...
, Kazakh and
Southern Altai language Southern Altai (also known as Oirot, Oyrot, Altai and Altai proper) is a Turkic languages, Turkic language spoken in the Altai Republic, a Federal subjects of Russia, federal subject of Russia located in South Central Siberia, Southern Siberia on ...
s which means "tussocks in a swamp". From as early as 103 BC up until the 8th century, the Balkhash polity surrounding the lake, whose Chinese name was ''Yibohai'' 夷播海, was known to the
Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and 14 different count ...

Chinese
as 布谷/布庫/布蘇 "Bugu/Buku/Busu." From the 8th century on, the land to the south of the lake, between it and the
Tian Shan The Tian Shan,; dng, Тянсан, ; otk, 𐰴𐰣 𐱅𐰭𐰼𐰃, ; tr, Tanrı Dağı; mn, Тэнгэр уул, ; ug, تەڭرىتاغ, , ; kk, Тәңіртауы / Алатау, , ; ky, Теңир-Тоо / Ала-Тоо, , ; uz, Tyan ...

Tian Shan
mountains, was known in
Turkic Turkic may refer to: * anything related to the country of Turkey * Turkic languages, a language family of at least thirty-five documented languages ** Turkic alphabets (disambiguation) ** Turkish language, the most widely spoken Turkic language * T ...

Turkic
as ''Jetisu'' "Seven Rivers" (''
Semirechye Zhetysu, or Jeti-Suu ( kk, , Жетісу, pronounced ; ky, ''Jeti-Suu'', (), meaning "seven rivers"; also transcribed ''Zhetisu'', ''Jetisuw'', ''Jetysu'', ''Jeti-su'', ''Jity-su'', ''Жетысу'',, National Geospatial-Intelligence Age ...

Semirechye
'' in
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
). It was a land where the nomadic Turks and
Mongols The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuud'', ; russian: Монголы, ) are an East Asian people, East Asian ethnic group indigenous peoples, native to the Inner Mongolia, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China, Mongolia an ...

Mongols
of the
steppe In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. Steppe biomes may include: * the montane grasslands and shrublands biome * the temperate grassland ...

steppe
mingled cultures with the settled peoples of Central Asia. During China's
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
(1636–1912), the lake formed the northwesternmost boundary of the empire. In 1864, the lake and its neighboring area were ceded to the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, was a historical empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, succeeding the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad that ended the Great Northern War. ...
under the
Treaty of Tarbagatai The Treaty of Tarbagatai (or Chuguchak; ) of 7 October Old_Style.html"_;"title="5_September_Old_Style">O.S./nowiki>_1864_was_a_border_protocol_between_Qing_dynasty.html" "title="Old_Style">O.S..html" ;"title="Old_Style.html" ;"title="5 September O ...
. With the dissolution of the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
in 1991, the lake became part of
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
.


The origin of the lake

Balkhash lies in the deepest part of the vast Balkhash-Alakol depression, which was formed by a sloping trough between mountains of the
Alpine orogeny The Alpine orogeny or Alpide orogeny is an orogeny, orogenic phase in the Late Mesozoic (Eoalpine) and the current Cenozoic that has formed the mountain ranges of the Alpide belt. These mountains include (from west to east) the Atlas Mountains, At ...
and the older Kazakhstan Block during the
Neogene The Neogene ( ) (informally Upper Tertiary or Late Tertiary) is a geologic period and system that spans 20.45 million years from the end of the Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; informally Lower Tertiary or E ...

Neogene
and
Quaternary The Quaternary ( ) is the current and most recent of the three periods of the Cenozoic The Cenozoic ( ; ) is Earth's current geological era An era is a span of time defined for the purposes of chronology or historiography, as in the regnal ...
. Rapid erosion of the
Tian Shan The Tian Shan,; dng, Тянсан, ; otk, 𐰴𐰣 𐱅𐰭𐰼𐰃, ; tr, Tanrı Dağı; mn, Тэнгэр уул, ; ug, تەڭرىتاغ, , ; kk, Тәңіртауы / Алатау, , ; ky, Теңир-Тоо / Ала-Тоо, , ; uz, Tyan ...

Tian Shan
has meant the depression subsequently filled with sand river sediments in what is geologically a very short time span. The is a part of
Dzungarian Alatau The Dzungarian Alatau ( mn, Зүүнгарын Алатау, ''Eüüngaryn Alatau''; ; kk, Жетісу Алатауы, ''Jetisý Alataýy''; russian: Джунгарский Алатау, ''Dzhungarskiy Alatau'') is a mountain range A mountain ...
, which also contains lakes Sasykkol, and Aibi. These lakes are remnants of an ancient sea which once covered the entire Balkhash-Alakol depression, but was not connected with the Aral–Caspian Depression.


Description

All the rivers of this region that carry their waters from high mountains flow into Lake Balkhash, however, none of them flows out. The major ones are:
Ili Ili, ILI, Illi may refer to: Abbreviations * Irish Life International, part of Irish Life and Permanent * Intuitive Logical Introvert, a personality type in socionics * Influenza-like illness * Iran Language Institute, a state-owned, non-profit o ...
, Aksu and
Karatal The Karatal (russian: Каратал, ''Karatal''; Khalkha Mongolian The Khalkha dialect (Mongolian script The classical or traditional Mongolian script, also known as the , was the first Mongolian alphabet, writing system created specifically ...

Karatal
. The lake is divided into two parts by the Saryesik peninsula (which means "Yellow Door" in the Kazakh language). These two parts are connected by the Uzynaral
strait A strait is a naturally formed, narrowing, typically navigable waterway that connects two larger bodies of water. The surface water generally flows at the same elevation on both sides and through the strait in either direction. Most commonly i ...

strait
. In ancient times Balkhash was much larger and many lakes in the area were part of it (including lakes
Zhalanashkol Lake Zhalanashkol ( kz, Жалаңашкөл, literally "Bare Lake", or "Exposed Lake"; russian: Жаланашколь) is a freshwater lake in the eastern part of Kazakhstan, on the border of Almaty Province (Alakol District) and East Kazakhstan ...
, and Sasykkol). Once it was even a sea, stretching all the way to the
Dzungarian Alatau The Dzungarian Alatau ( mn, Зүүнгарын Алатау, ''Eüüngaryn Alatau''; ; kk, Жетісу Алатауы, ''Jetisý Alataýy''; russian: Джунгарский Алатау, ''Dzhungarskiy Alatau'') is a mountain range A mountain ...
.


Relief

The lake covers about 16,400 km2 (2000), making it the largest lake wholly in Kazakhstan. Its surface is about 340 m above sea level. It has a gentle curve (
sickle A sickle, bagging hook, reaping-hook or grasshook is a single-handed agricultural Agriculture is the practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary Image:Family watching televi ...

sickle
) shape yet with jagged shorelines. Its length is about 600 km and the width varies from 9–19 km in the eastern part to 74 km in the western part. Saryesik Peninsula, near the middle of the lake, hydrographically divides it into two very different parts. The western part, which covers 58%, but 46% of the volume. It is thus relatively shallow, quiet and is filled with freshwater. The eastern part is much deeper and saltier. These parts are connected by the Uzynaral Strait ( kz, Ұзынарал – "long island") – 3.5 km wide and about 6 metres deep. The lake includes several small basins. In the western part, are two depressions 7–11 meters deep. One extends from the western coast (near Tasaral Island) to Cape Korzhyntubek, whereas the second lies south from the Gulf Bertys, which is the deepest part of the "half". The average depth of the eastern basin is 16 m and has the maximum depth (of 26 m). The average depth of the lake is 5.8 metres, and the total volume of water is about 112 km3. The western and northern shores of the lake are high (20–30 m) and rocky; they are composed of such
Paleozoic The Paleozoic (or Palaeozoic) Era ( ; from the Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Eu ...
rocks as porphyry,
tuff Tuff is a type of Rock (geology), rock made of volcanic ash ejected from a Volcano, vent during a volcanic eruption. Following ejection and deposition, the ash is lithified into a solid rock. Rock that contains greater than 75% ash is consider ...

tuff
,
granite Granite () is a coarse-grained (phanerite, phaneritic) intrusive rock, intrusive igneous rock composed mostly of quartz, alkali feldspar, and plagioclase. It forms from magma with a high content of silica and alkali metal oxides that slowly cool ...

granite
,
schist Schist ( ) is a medium-grained metamorphic rock , a type of metamorphic rock Metamorphic rocks arise from the transformation of existing rock (geology), rock to new types of rock, in a process called metamorphism upright=1.35, Schematic r ...

schist
and
limestone Limestone is a common type of carbonate In chemistry, a carbonate is a salt Salt is a mineral composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of Salt (chemistry), salts; salt in its na ...

limestone
and keep traces of ancient terraces. The southern shores near the Gulf Karashagan and Ili River are low (1–2 m) and sandy. They are often flooded and therefore contain numerous water pools. Occasional hills are present with the height of 5–10 m. The
coastline The coast, also known as the coastline or seashore, is defined as the area where land meets the sea or ocean, or as a line that forms the boundary between the land and the ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body ...

coastline
is very curvy and dissected by numerous bays and coves. The large bays of the western part are: Saryshagan, Kashkanteniz, Karakamys, Shempek (the southern pole of the lake), and Balakashkan Ahmetsu, and those in the eastern part are: Guzkol, Balyktykol, Kukuna, Karashigan. The eastern part also includes peninsulas Baygabyl, Balay, Shaukar, Kentubek and Korzhintobe. The lake contains 43 islands with a total area of 66 km2; however, new islands are being formed due to the lowering of water level, and the area of the existing ones is increasing. The islands of the western part include Tasaral and Basaral (the largest), as well as Ortaaral, Ayakaral and Olzhabekaral. The eastern islands include Ozynaral, Ultarakty, Korzhyn and Algazy.


Feeding the lake and the water level

The Balkhash-Alakol Basin covers 512,000 km2, and its average surface water runoff is 27.76 km3/year, of which 11.5 km3 comes from China. The
drainage basin A drainage basin is any area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as into a river, bay, or other body of water. The drainage basin includes all the surface water from surface runoff, rain runoff, snowm ...

drainage basin
of the lake is about 413,000 km2; with 15% in the north-west of
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

Xinjiang
in China and a negligible part from mountains along the
KyrgyzKyrgyz, Kirghiz or Kyrgyzstani may refer to: *Things related to Kyrgyzstan *Kyrgyz people *Kyrgyz language *Kyrgyz culture *Kyrgyz cuisine *Yenisei Kirghiz *The Fuyu Kyrgyz language, Fuyü Gïrgïs language in Northeastern China {{Disambig Languag ...

Kyrgyz
-Kazakh border. Lake Balkhash thus takes 86% of water inflow from Balkhash-Alakol basin. The Ili accounts for 73–80% of the inflow: 12.3 km3/year or 23 km3 per year. The river rises in a very long, narrow, high sided valley lined by the
Tian Shan The Tian Shan,; dng, Тянсан, ; otk, 𐰴𐰣 𐱅𐰭𐰼𐰃, ; tr, Tanrı Dağı; mn, Тэнгэр уул, ; ug, تەڭرىتاغ, , ; kk, Тәңіртауы / Алатау, , ; ky, Теңир-Тоо / Ала-Тоо, , ; uz, Tyan ...

Tian Shan
mountains and is mainly fed by
glacier A glacier (; ) is a persistent body of dense ice Ice is into a state. Depending on the presence of such as particles of soil or bubbles of air, it can appear transparent or a more or less bluish-white color. In the , ice is abunda ...

glacier
. These have a sporadic degree of
relief precipitation Orography (from the Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 mi ...
, their predominant type. Inflow is often greatest and most regulated during the glacial melting season: June to July. The river forms a quite narrow
delta Delta commonly refers to: * Delta (letter) (Δ or δ), a letter of the Greek alphabet * River delta, a landform at the mouth of a river * D (NATO phonetic alphabet: "Delta"), the fourth letter of the modern English alphabet * Delta Air Lines, an Ame ...

delta
of 8,000 km2 that serves as an multi-year accumulator type of regulator. The eastern part of the lake is fed by the rivers
Karatal The Karatal (russian: Каратал, ''Karatal''; Khalkha Mongolian The Khalkha dialect (Mongolian script The classical or traditional Mongolian script, also known as the , was the first Mongolian alphabet, writing system created specifically ...

Karatal
, Aksu and
Lepsy Lepsy ( kz, Лепсі, ''Lepsi''; before 2010, Lepsinsk) is a village in Alakol District, Almaty Region, in south-eastern Kazakhstan. It is the administrative seat of Lepsy Village District, which also includes the villages of Baizerek (Байз ...
, as well as by
groundwater Groundwater is the water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an , transparent, tasteless, odorless, and , which is the main constituent of 's and the s of all known living organisms (in which it acts as a ). It is vital for all known form ...

groundwater
. The Karatal rises on the slopes of
Dzungarian Alatau The Dzungarian Alatau ( mn, Зүүнгарын Алатау, ''Eüüngaryn Alatau''; ; kk, Жетісу Алатауы, ''Jetisý Alataýy''; russian: Джунгарский Алатау, ''Dzhungarskiy Alatau'') is a mountain range A mountain ...
and is the second-largest inflow. The
Ayaguz Ayagoz or Ayakoz ( kk, Аягөз, ''Ayagöz''), formerly Sergiopol (russian: Сергиополь), is a city of regional significance in Kazakhstan, the administrative centre of Ayagoz District, Ayagoz district of East Kazakhstan Region. It is lo ...
, which fed the east half until 1950, seldom reaches Lake Balkhash. The western half's inflow averages 1.15 km3 greater, per year.
The area and volume vary due to long-term and short-term fluctuations in water level. Long-term fluctuations had an amplitude of 12–14 metres. Since the year 0 CE they saw minimal water between the 5th and 10th centuries; and maximal between the 13th and 18th centuries. In the early 20th century and between 1958 and 1969, lake swelled to cover about 18,000 km2. In
drought A drought is an event of prolonged shortages in the water supply, whether atmospheric (below-average precipitation In meteorology Meteorology is a branch of the (which include and ), with a major focus on . The study of meteorolog ...

drought
s such as the late 1900s, 1930s and 1940s, the lake shrank to about 16,000 km2 having a drop in level of about 3 metres. In 1946, the area was 15,730 km2 (volume 82.7 km3). From the late 1900s, the lake is shrinking due to the diversion of the rivers supplying it. For example, Kapshagay Hydroelectric Power Plant was built on Ili in 1970. Filling the associated disbalanced the lake, worsening water quality, especially in the eastern part. Between 1970 and 1987, the water level fell by 2.2 metres, the volume reduced by 30 km3 salinity in the west half was increasing. Projects were proposed to slow the changes down, such as by splitting the lake in two with a dam, called off as the Soviet Union saw recession, democratisation and secession. The minimal water level of recent decades (340.65 meters AOD) was in 1987, when the filling Kapshagay Reservoir was completed. The level recovered to 342.5 m by January 2005, attributed to exceptional precipitation in the late 1990s.


Water composition

Balkhash is a semi-saline lake. Chemical composition strongly depends on the hydrographic features of the reservoir. Water in the west half is nearly fresh, with the content of
total dissolved solids #REDIRECT Total dissolved solids Total dissolved solids (TDS) is a measure of the dissolved combined content of all inorganic and organic substances present in a liquid in molecular, ionized, or micro-granular ( colloidal sol) suspended form. T ...
about 0.74 g/L, and cloudy (visibility: 1 metre); it is used for drinking and industry. The east half has less silt in suspension (visibility: 5.5 metres) but resembles oceanic sea water in salinity, with concentration of 3.5–6 g/L. The average salinity of the lake is 2.94 g/L. Long-term (1931–70) average precipitation of salts in the lake is 7.53 million tonnes and the reserves of dissolved salts are about 312 million tonnes. The water in the western part has a yellow-gray tint, and in the eastern part the color varies from bluish to emerald-blue.


Climate

The climate of the lake area is
continental Continental may refer to: Places * Continent * Continental, Arizona, a small community in Pima County, Arizona, US * Continental, Ohio, a small town in Putnam County, US Arts and entertainment * Continental (album), ''Continental'' (album), an al ...
. The average mean temperature is about 24 °C with highs in July and the average mean temperature is −14 °C in January. Average precipitation is 131 mm per year and the
relative humidity Humidity is the concentration of water vapour (99.9839 °C) , - , Boiling point , , - , specific gas constant , 461.5 J/( kg·K) , - , Heat of vaporization , 2.27 MJ/kg , - , Heat capacity , 1.864 kJ/(kg·K) Water vap ...

relative humidity
is about 60%. Wind, dry climate and high summer temperatures result in high
evaporation Evaporation is a type of vaporization Vaporization (or vaporisation) of an element or compound is a phase transition from the liquid phase to vapor. There are two types of vaporization: evaporation and boiling. Evaporation is a surface phe ...

evaporation
rate – 950 mm in cold and up to 1200 mm in dry years. Wind has average speed of 4.5–4.8 m/s and blows mainly southward in the western part and to the south-west in the eastern part. The wind induces waves up to 2–3.5 m in height and steady clockwise currents in the western part. There are 110–130 sunny days per year with the average
irradiance In radiometry Radiometry is a set of techniques for measuring ' Measurement is the numerical quantification of the attributes of an object or event, which can be used to compare with other objects or events. The scope and application of measure ...

irradiance
of 15.9 MJ/m2 per day. Water temperature at the surface of the lake varies from 0 °C in December to 28 °C in July. The average annual temperature is 10 °C in the western and 9 °C in the eastern parts of the lake. The lake freezes every year between November and early April, and the melting is delayed by some 10–15 days in the eastern part.


Flora and fauna

The shores of the lake contain individual
willow Willows, also called sallows and osiers, from the genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining ( ...

willow
trees and
riparian forest A riparian forest or riparian woodland is a forested or wooded area of land adjacent to a body of water such as a river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. ...
s, mostly composed of various species of ''
Populus ''Populus'' is a genus of 25–30 species of deciduous In the fields of horticulture Horticulture is the art of cultivating plants in gardens to produce food and medicinal ingredients, or for comfort and ornamental purposes. Horticultu ...

Populus
''. Plants include
common reed ''Phragmites australis'', known as the common reed, is a broadly distributed wetland grass growing nearly tall. Taxonomy Recent studies have characterized morphological distinctions between the introduced and native stands of ''Phragmites aus ...
(''Phragmites australis''), lesser Indian reed mace (''
Typha ''Typha'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), circums ...

Typha
angustata '') and several species of
cane Cane or caning may refer to: *Walking stick A walking stick or walking cane is a device used primarily to aid walking Walking (also known as ambulation) is one of the main gait Gait is the pattern of Motion (physics), movement of the limb ...
– '' Schoenoplectus littoralis'', '' S. lacustris'' and
endemic Endemism is the state of a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest gro ...
'' S. kasachstanicus''. Under water grow two types of ''
Myriophyllum ''Myriophyllum'' (water milfoil) is a genus of about 69 species of freshwater aquatic plants, with a cosmopolitan distribution. The center of diversity for ''Myriophyllum'' is Australia with 43 recognized species (37 endemic). These submersed aq ...
'' – spiked ('''') and whorled ('' M. verticillatum''); several kinds of ''
Potamogeton ''Potamogeton'' is a genus of aquatic plants, aquatic, mostly freshwater, plants of the family Potamogetonaceae. Most are known by the common name pondweed, although many unrelated plants may be called pondweed, such as Elodea canadensis, Canadia ...

Potamogeton
'' – shining (''''), perfoliate ('' P. perfoliatus''), kinky ('' P. crispus''), fennel ('' P. pectinatus'') and '' P. macrocarpus''; as well as common bladderwort (''
Utricularia vulgaris ''Utricularia vulgaris'' (greater bladderwort or common bladderwort) is an aquatic species of bladderwort found in Asia and Europe. The plant is a free-floating and does not put down roots. Stems can attain lengths of over one metre in a single ...

Utricularia vulgaris
''), rigid hornwort (''
Ceratophyllum demersum ''Ceratophyllum demersum'', commonly known as hornwort, rigid hornwort, coontail, or coon's tail, is a species of ''Ceratophyllum ''Ceratophyllum'' is a cosmopolitan genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is th ...

Ceratophyllum demersum
'') and two species of ''
Najas ''Najas'', the water-nymphs or naiads, is a genus of aquatic plants. It is cosmopolitan (distribution), cosmopolitan in distribution, first described for modern science by Carl Linnaeus, Linnaeus in 1753. Until 1997, it was rarely placed in th ...
''.
Phytoplankton Phytoplankton () are the autotrophic An autotroph or primary producer is an organism that produces complex organic compound , CH4; is among the simplest organic compounds. In chemistry, organic compounds are generally any chemical compoun ...

Phytoplankton
, the concentration of which was 1.127 g/L in 1985, is represented by numerous species of
algae Algae (; singular alga ) is an informal term for a large and diverse group of photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert Conversion or convert may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Co ...

algae
. The lake used to have a rich fauna, but since 1970,
biodiversity Biodiversity is the biological variety and Genetic variability, variability of life, life on Earth. Biodiversity is a measure of variation at the Genetics, genetic, species, and ecosystem level. Terrestrial biodiversity is usually greater near ...

biodiversity
began to decline due to deterioration of water quality. Before then, there were abundant
shellfish Shellfish is a colloquial and fisheries Fishery is the enterprise of raising or harvesting fish and other aquatic life. Commercial fisheries include wild fisheries and Fish farming, fish farms, both in fresh water (about 10% of all catch) and ...

shellfish
,
crustacean Crustaceans (Crustacea ) form a large, diverse arthropod taxon which includes such animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, Caridea, shrimp, krill, Dendrobranchiata, prawns, woodlice, barnacles, copepods, amphipoda, amphipods and mantis shrimp. The ...
s,
chironomidae The Chironomidae (informally known as chironomids, nonbiting midges, or lake flies) comprise a family of nematocera The Nematocera (the name means "thread-horns") are a suborder of elongated flies with thin, segmented antennae and mostly aqu ...

chironomidae
and
oligochaeta Oligochaeta () is a subclass of animals in the phylum Annelida, which is made up of many types of aquatic and terrestrial worms, including all of the various earthworms. Specifically, oligochaetes comprise the terrestrial megadrile earthworms ( ...

oligochaeta
, as well as
zooplankton Zooplankton (; ) are heterotroph A heterotroph (; from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often ro ...

zooplankton
(concentration 1.87 g/L in 1985), especially in the western part. The lake hosted about 20 species of fish, 6 of which were native: Ili marinka (''Schizothorax pseudoaksaiensis''), Balkhash marinka (''S. argentatus''),
Balkhash perch The Balkhash perch (''Perca schrenkii'') is a species of perch endemic to the Lake Balkhash and Lake Alakol watershed system, which lies mainly in Kazakhstan. It is similar to the other two species of perch, and grows to a comparable size, but has ...
(''Perca schrenkii''), '' Triplophysa strauchii'', ''Triplophysa labiata, T. labiata'' and Rhynchocypris poljakowi, Balkhash minnow (''Rhynchocypris poljakowi''). Other fish species were alien: common carp (''Cyprinus carpio''), barb (fish), spine, Common bream, Oriental bream (''Abramis brama orientalis''), Aral barbel (''Luciobarbus brachycephalus''), Siberian dace (''Leuciscus baicalensis''), tench (''Tinca tinca''), European perch (''Perca fluviatilis''), catfish, ''Diptychus'', Prussian carp (''Carassius gibelio'') and others. The fishery was focused on carp, perch, Asp (fish), asp (''Aspius aspius'') and bream. Abundant and dense reeds in the southern part of the lake, especially in the delta of Ili River, served as a haven for birds and animals. Changes in the water level led to the degradation of the delta – since 1970, its area decreased from 3,046 to 1,876 km2, reducing wetlands and riparian forests which were inhabited by birds and animals. Land development, application of pesticides, overgrazing and deforestation also contributed to the decrease in biodiversity. Of the 342 species of vertebrate, 22 are endangered and are listed in the IUCN Red List, Red Book of Kazakhstan. Forests of the Ili delta were inhabited by the rare (now probably extinct) Caspian tiger and its prey, wild boar. Around the 1940s, Canadian muskrat was brought to the Ili delta; it quickly acclimatized, feeding on ''
Typha ''Typha'' is a genus Genus /ˈdʒiː.nəs/ (plural genera /ˈdʒen.ər.ə/) is a taxonomic rank In biological classification In biology, taxonomy () is the scientific study of naming, defining (Circumscription (taxonomy), circums ...

Typha
'', and was trapped for fur, up to 1 million animals per year. However, recent changes in the water level destroyed its habitat, bringing the fur industry to a halt. Balkhash is also the habitat of 120 types of bird, including cormorants, marbled teal, pheasants, golden eagle and great egret; 12 of those are endangered, including great white pelican, Dalmatian pelican, Eurasian spoonbill, whooper swan and white-tailed eagle.


Cities and economy

In 2005, 3.3 million people lived in the basin of the Lake Balkhash, including residents of Almaty – the largest city of Kazakhstan. The largest city on the lake is Balkhash with 66,724 inhabitants (2010). It is on the northern shore and has a prominent mining and metallurgy plant. A large copper deposit was discovered in the area in 1928–1930 and is being developed in the villages north of the lake. Part of the motorway between Bishkek and Karaganda runs along the western shore of the lake. The western shore also hosts military installations built during the Soviet era, such as radar missile warning systems. The southern shore is almost unpopulated and has only a few villages. The nature and wild life of the lake attract tourists, and there are several resorts on the lake. In 2021, Lake Balkhash was selected as one of the top 10 tourist destinations in the country of Kazakhstan.


Fishing

The economic importance of the lake is mostly in its fishing industry. Systematic breeding of fish began in 1930; the annual catch was 20 thousand tonnes in 1952, it increased to 30 thousands in the 1960s and included up to 70% of valuable species. However, by the 1990s production fell to 6,600 tonnes per year with only 49 tonnes of valuable breeds. The decline is attributed to several factors, including the halt of reproduction programs, poaching and decline in water level and quality.


Energy projects

In 1970, the 364-Watt#Multiples, megawatt Kapshagay Hydroelectric Power Plant was built on the Ili River, drawing water out of the new for irrigation. Ili's water is also extensively used upstream, in the
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

Xinjiang
province of China, for the cultivation of cotton. Currently, there is a project for an additional counter-regulatory dam 23 km downstream from the Kapchagay. The associated 49.5-MW Kerbulak Hydroelectric Power Plant will partially solve the problem of providing electricity to the southern areas of Kazakhstan and will serve as a buffer for daily and weekly fluctuations in the water level of Ili River. Energy supply to the south-eastern part of Kazakhstan is an old problem, with numerous solutions proposed in the past. Proposals to build power plants on Balkhash in the late 1970s and 1980s stalled, and the initiative to erect a Nuclear power, nuclear plant near the village Ulken met strong opposition from environmentalists and residents. Therefore, in 2008, the Kazakh government reconsidered and announced building of a Balkhash Thermal power station, Thermal Power Plant.


Navigation

There is a regular ship navigation through the lake, mouth of Ili River and Kapchagay Reservoir. The main piers are Burylbaytal and Burlitobe. The ships are relatively light due to the limiting depth in some parts of the lake; they are used mainly for catching fish and transporting fish and construction materials. The total length of the waterway is 978 km, and the navigation period is 210 days/year. Navigation on the Lake Balkhash originated in 1931 with the arrival of two steamers and three barges. By 1996, up to 120,000 tonnes of building materials, 3,500 tonnes of ore, 45 tonnes of fish, 20 tonnes of melons and 3,500 passengers were transported on Balkhash (per year). During 2004 there were 1000 passengers and 43 tonnes of fish. In 2004, the local fleets consisted of 87 vessels, including 7 passenger ships, 14 cargo barges and 15 tugboats. The government projected that 2012 would see in the Ili-Balkhash basin 233,000 tonnes of construction materials, at least 550,000 tonnes of livestock, fertiliser and foodstuffs and at least 53 tonnes of fish. Development of eco-tourism is expected to increase the passengers to 6,000 people per year.


Environmental and political issues

Academics and government advisors fear major loss of ecosystems in the lake. Unabashed industrial extraction would likely emulate the environmental disaster at the
Aral Sea The Aral Sea (Aral ; kk, Aral teńizi, Арал теңізі, uz, Orol dengizi, Орол денгизи, kaa, Aral ten'izi, Арал теңизи, russian: Аральское море) was an endorheic lake lying between Kazakhstan Kaza ...

Aral Sea
. Since 1970, the 39 km3 outflow of water to fill the Kapchagay Reservoir led to a 66% fall in inflow from the Ili. The concomitant decrease the lake's level was about 15.6 cm/year, much greater than the natural decline of 1908–1946 (9.2 cm/year). The shallowing is acute in the western "half". From 1972 until 2001, a small salt lake Alakol, 8 km south of Balkhash, had practically disappeared and the southern part of the lake lost about 150 km2 of water surface. Of the 16 existing lake systems around the lake only five remain. The
desertification Desertification is a type of land degradation Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. It is viewed as any change or distu ...
process involved about of the basin. Salt dust is blown away from the dried areas, contributing to the generation of Asian dust storms, increase the soil salinity and adversely influencing the climate. Increasing formation of silt in the river's delta further reduces the inflow of water to the lake.
Another factor affecting the ecology of the Ili-Balkhash basin is Air pollution, emissions due to mining and metallurgical processes, mostly at the Balkhash Mining and Metallurgy Plant operated by Kazakhmys. In the early 1990s, emission level was 280–320 thousand tonnes per year, depositing 76 tonnes of copper, 68 tonnes of zinc and 66 tonnes of lead on the surface of the lake. Since then, emission almost doubled. Contaminants are also brought from the dump sites by the dust storms. In 2000, a major conference "Balkhash 2000" brought together environmental scientists from different countries, as well as representatives of business and government. The conference adopted a resolution and appeal to the Government of Kazakhstan and international organizations, suggesting new ways of managing the ecosystems of Alakol and Balkhash basins. At the 2005 International Environmental Forum devoted to Lake Balkhash, Kazakhmys announced that by 2006 it will restructure its processes, thereby reducing emissions by 80–90%. Contamination of Balkhash originates not only locally, but is also brought by inflow of polluted water from China. China also consumes 14.5 km3 of water per year from Ili River, with a planned increase by 3.6 times. The current rate of the increase is 0.5–4 km3/year. In 2007, Kazakhstan Government proposed a price reduction for sales of Kazakh products to China in exchange for reduction of water consumption from Ili River, but the offer was declined by China.


See also

* Balkhash – the city at Lake Balkhash *Korzhin Island


References


External links

*
Kazakh 'national treasure' under threatUnited Nations Environmental Programme details on Lake Balkhash
RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty {{DEFAULTSORT:Balkhash Lake Balkhash, Siberian Tiger Re-population Project Endorheic lakes of Asia