ALMATY/DEC. 23 2020 (The Bulletin) — The Caspian Sea, which provides a livelihood for thousands of people and acts as a fulcrum for international transit routes through the Central Asia and South Caucasus region, is shrinking, new scientific research showed (Dec. 23).
The report produced by universities in Germany and the Netherlands said that the Caspian Sea could lose up to a third of its water by 2100, with water level dropping by 18m, marooning previously important ports hundreds of kilometres inland.
The report’s authors said they wanted to use the threat to the Caspian Sea to highlight the dangers of global warming to inland seas and lakes.
“A massive warning signal is the projected catastrophic drop in water levels for the Caspian Sea, the largest lake in the world, which could hit stakeholders unprepared,” the report said.
Previous studies have warned that the Caspian Sea has been shrinking since the 1990s but not this quickly.
Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan border the Caspian Sea, which lies at the centre of a series of transport corridors that ultimately connect East Asia with Europe.
The Caspian Sea also hosts the region’s oil and gas industry and is a wildlife reserve, supporting seals, and migratory birds. The report showed how vast areas of the northern section of the Caspian Sea could dry up, with Atyrau in Kazakhstan effectively being stranded hundreds of kilometres from the shore.
Central Asia’s reputation for ecological disasters is already secure with the shrinking of the Aral Sea, which is shared by Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. It shrank in the 1960s and 1970s to half its original size because of Soviet schemes to siphon off its tributaries to irrigate cotton fields.
— This story was first published in issue 467 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin
— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021