WATER FOR TIGER
As one of its goals, the Convention focuses on sustainable and reasonable use of transboundary water resources protecting the ecosystems of rivers and coastal territories.
At the Session, WWF Russia emphasized the uniqueness of the Ili River. The river basin is divided between Kazakhstan (about 30% of the catchment area) and China (70%). The area is distinguished by a wide variety of biological species: the swamps located in the Ili River delta are included in the Ramsar List. Among the inhabitants of this area are 284 bird species, including the endangered Dalmatian and European white pelicans.
The Ili River delta is also a place chosen for tiger reintroduction — an ambitious joint project of the Kazakhstan Government and WWF aiming to return the predator that disappeared 70 years ago to this land.
The Ili River is the main tributary of the Lake Balkhash accounting for 80% of its water supply. The Balkhash is ranked the 15th among the planet's largest lakes and is the only lake the water of which is salty in one part and fresh in the other.
According to the 5th National Report on the Progress in the Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity of Kazakhstan, the dynamic increase in water consumption for agricultural needs by Kazakhstan and China may cause a loss of 86% of lake volume by 2045.
Such loss will be catastrophic for the Balkhash. The mark of 341 m above sea level is critical, as the lake will divide into two parts leading to irreversible environmental consequences. The key reasons for a potential disaster include the excessive water consumption for agricultural purposes, inadequate cooperation between the two countries concerning water management, the consequences of climate changes, the quality of the infrastructure (water reservoirs and canals) and defects in its management.
To preserve the lake, efforts should be taken to establish efficient transborder cooperation and to restore forest covers in the river basin.
"WWF would like to remind again that we are absolutely prepared for fruitful cooperation with the Water Convention Secretary," Grigory Mazmaniants, Director of Central Asian Program, WWF Russia, said. "In every way, we are striving to make the Water Convention a platform for the development of bilateral agreements, a platform with a strong research and methodological support for using water resources and coastal territories in the transboundary river basins where WWF operates".
Environmental flows refers to special water discharges from the reservoir to support the ecosystem.
Photo: Dean Mureven / (c) WWF-International