Kazakhstan’s Lake Balkhash is under threat of drying up. The history of the Aral Sea is being repeated: On the other side of the border in China, dam after dam is being built on the rivers that feed Lake Balkhash, and each one takes more and more water … more

Fishing cutters in the harbor of Kuigan on the delta of the Ili River, the biggest inflowing river of Lake Balkhash
Fishermen are bringing fish to the coldstore of a cooperative in Kuigan's harbor.
Kazakh fisherman.
Fishing boats in one of the many arms of the Ili.
The delta is a haven for fish and birds that can hide well in the reeds.
Oleg Shumacher is one of the fishermen living from Lake Balkhash.
Lake Balkhash. “We call it ‘the ocean’", say the fishermen.
In Lepsy, another village on the south shore of Lake Balkhash, a woman fetches water at a public pump.
Evening at Balkhash. For many men here the fishing is anything but romantic - it is the only source of income.
There is still enough water and fish. Two fishermen sailing out for fishing in the evening.
Creeping sands have already reached the outskirts of Bakbarty, a settlement 150 kilometers from Kuigan.
Only 70 meters now separate the dunes from the first houses,
but the villages continue to raise rice in the surrounding land ....
.... and rice, of course, requires artificial irrigation.

Akylbek Botbayev is a foreman at a collective farm that raises rice on 1,000 hectares
(about twice the size of Berlin’s Tegel airport).

Water for irrigating both the rice fields and the crops the collective raises is diverted from the main channel of the Ili River two kilometers away. For much of their course the walls of the open irrigation ditches are not concreted, however, so a significant portion of water simply seeps into the ground before it reaches the fields.
South of Lake Balkhash - desert and irrigated fields are really close together
The Ili River, which accounts for up to 80 percent of the water flowing into Lake Balkhash, begins on the border with China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
Dunes between the river arms in the Ili delta. Due to the dry climate there is a high evaporation. The ecosystem around Lake Balkhash reacts sensitively to every slight change in environmental conditions.

All images © Edda Schlager – Don’t use without permission. For inquiries please send an email to schlager(at)tengri.de

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