Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
The Ili-Balkhash basin (IB basin) is a large freshwater system, covering 413 000 km2 in
Kazakhstan, China and Kyrgyzstan. The main part of the watershed is situated in Kazakstan (85%) and a smaller part in northwestern China (15 %). The Kazakhstan's part of the IB basin embraces the territory of the Almaty region and Xinijang region.
The water of the western lake Balkhash is slightly salty (1,2 %), while the eastern part has a considerably higher salt contamination (3,9 %). The lake has a surface area of over 16 000 km2
and a length of 600 km. The average depth of the lake is six metres and its maximum depth reaches 26 metres. There are three main rivers flowing into the lake: Ili River, with a large delta, the Karatal River, with a smaller delta, and the Aqsu River. The biggest of them being the Ili river - already influenced by a reservoir created upstream and heavy agricultural use - which flows from China. Chinese authorities intend to make an increased use of the Ili river and thus China will come to have a strong influence on the Balkhash lake. The Xinijang region is highly populated and the population rate is increasing significantly through the combination of natural population increase and internal migration from the eastern part of China.
The lake is very shallow and very sensitive to changes in water transport. Current development poses a severe threat to the watershed and specifically to lake Balkhash, since more and more water is diverted from the rivers for societal use, mainly agricultural irrigation. At the moment, the lake and the whole watershed suffer from ecological problems that mostly have been created artificially, by human hands. The Kapchagai reservoir, built along the middle reaches of the Ili River in 1966, and used for water storage since 1970, allowed the development of irrigation agriculture along the lower reaches of the river. The reservoir serves for hydroelectric power generation and for irrigation water supply. Since its inauguration, water use has increased along the lower reaches of the Ili River. In addition, increasing pollution emissions and an increased salinity of the lake water have seriously affected the fishing industry and diminished the surrounding habitats. So far, no action has been taken to reverse the ecological damage that the lake has suffered. In a worst scenario, a development similar to that for the Aral Sea can be foreseen.
Future water management in the region will require improved water management policies, improved planning of water resources management, improved monitoring of different activities and their impact and an increased regional international cooperation, mainly between Kazakhstan and China. The Thesis is a compilation of information on the past and present situation of the IB basin, ending in a discussion of the sustainability of three future scenarios developed: (i) a business as usual scenario where there is a possibility that the lake will be divided into two separated small lakes, (ii) a non-conscious development with rapid economic growth scenario, where we risk the same ecological disaster as that happened to the Aral Sea and (iii) a sustainable development scenario, where the Balkhash lake can be saved. The discussion ends in the conclusion that there is a risk that a non-conscious development based on a rapid economic growth will result in severe long-term impacts and non-sustainable development in the IB basin
2007. , 86 p.