Kazakhstan for diverting Irtysh River

Eurasia News

Astana: Kazakhstan Ministry of Regional Development has suggested to divert the Irtysh River flow into the central part of the country, Dispatch News Desk (DND) reports.

A delegation from the Regional Development Ministry and Astana branch of Kazakh Scientific-Research and Design Institute of Construction and Architecture visited Ust-Kamenogorsk. The delegation presented a draft General Plan of Territories Organization in Kazakhstan.

The draft General Plan will be presented to the government in August 2013. The ministry hopes that the document will be approved and will come in effect on January 1, 2014. All the innovations will have to be implemented within the next 25-30 years.

An outflow of the population over the last 10 years has been registered in East-Kazakhstan oblast, Director of the Institute Turlybek Mussabayev said. According to the forecasts, the oblast’s population may shrink by another 6 percent by 2030. The population is also migrating inside the region: people are moving from villages to towns and cities. 27 villages and 141 small villages have disappeared in the last 15 years in the oblast. Besides, the authorities are worried that the internal migration processes are largely chaotic and non-centralized.

“In the General Plan we are trying to solve the problem of the urban sprawl with due consideration of town-planning. That means that it is necessary to create counter-magnet towns based on largest villages. They will attract the migration flows from the cities. Diverting migration flows from other country’s regions into East Kazakhstan might be a solution for the problem of your oblast,” Mussabayev said.

To attract people to villages the place should offer work and decent living conditions. Here is where the river diversion comes in. 50 villages have been selected in the region. The suggestion is to use them to create agro-towns. They will have medium and large companies dealing with storage and processing of agricultural goods. The General Plan suggests that people from small villages will gradually move to the larger ones. And the selected small villages will eventually turn into farm towns with rotational jobs.

Besides, the Ministry is planning to solve the problem of single-industry towns (Zyryanovsk, Serebryansk, Ridder and Kurchatov in East-Kazakhstan oblast) by prolonging activities of their backbone companies, in particular, by follow-up exploration of the mineral deposits since all of these towns have grown around mining operations.

The Irtysh River is 4,248km long, it is one the main feeders of the Ob River (in Russia). Irtysh flows across Kazakhstan (1,700km), Russia (2,010km) and China (525km). Together with Ob, Irtysh is the longest river in Russia, second long in Asia and 6th long in the world (5,410km). Its basin’s area is 1,6 million sq.km.

The river starts in China and flows to Russia. So if Kazakhstan diverts the river Russia is not going to be happy. Besides, Kazakhstan is not the only country diverting and consuming water from the river. Worries over China’s use of the Irtysh River flow were expressed at the recent transborder rivers management meeting, since China is diverting the water to develop its Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Besides, water from Irtysh feeds Irtysh-Karaganda channel that is used for general consumption and irrigation purposes. And there is a chain of hydro-power plants on the Irtysh River below Zaissan lake. The complex includes Bukhtarma, Ust-Kamenogorsk and Shulba hydro-power plants.

Several major cities are located on the Irtysh River in Kazakhstan: Serebryansk, Ust-Kamenogorsk, Semipalatinsk, Kurchatov, Aksu and Pavlodar.

The Ministry’s plan to divert the river to central Kazakhstan is intended to use Irtysh water for supplying tap and irrigation water to small villages to facilitate development of agriculture and grain production traditional for this area. The developments are expected to eventually attract the migration flow back to the villages and small towns. The extent of the diversion and the scale of the Ministry’s plans are unclear, thought.

Kazakhstan already has an experience of diverting the rivers for irrigation purpose. Syrdarya and Amudarya rivers were diverted from Aral Sea to irrigate the cotton fields in Uzbekistan by the Soviet Union in the 1960s. The Aral Sea has been catastrophically drying out since then.