Water-ecological problems in the zone of water resources formation and ways of their solution

Abstract. Environmental problems have no geographical or political boundaries - the scale of the consequences is not commensurate with the administrative boundaries of sovereign states. And in this regard, from the point of view of regional interests, two key aspects are essential in the framework of the topic under discussion: mountains as a source of formation of water resources and the related issue of the glaciers state and the second - tailings as a source of environmental safety.

According to the world community, mountains with their perennial glaciers are among the most sensitive indicators of climate change. It is no secret that the cost of housing and communal services in the highlands increases, large capital investments in the infrastructure of industrial enterprises are required and there are difficulties in the operation of equipment in the highlands. But the increased environmental risks of the highlands to the country’s economy are of particular concern. Consequently, farming in high-land areas is subject to significant risks due to the instability of the weather and the manifestation of various natural emergencies.

Along with this, there are negative factors that affect the life of a person: variability of weather and sharp seasonal and daily temperature fluctuations, increased ultraviolet radiation, dry air, low atmospheric pressure and oxygen content.

At the same time, the intense melting of glaciers in the upstream countries, which are natural storages, the zone of formation of fresh water in Central Asia, is of particular concern in the region against the background of global warming.

According to the estimates of Professor Mark Durgerov, a world-renowned glaciologist, and Liu Sha Hai and Xie Zi Zhou, scientists of the Academy of Sciences of China (Lanzhou), the glaciation area of the Tien Shan mountain system decreased by 16.9% between 1961 and 2006 - from 15,416 km2 to 12,815 km2. The volume of glaciers during the same period decreased by 219 km3, that is, the area and the volume of glaciation of the mountain system decreased respectively.

In confirmation of the above data, employees of the Tien Shan High-Land Scientific Center at the Institute of Water Problems and Hydropower of the National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic have been observing the Kara- Batkak reference glacier and the Issyk- Kul lake basin (the Northern slope of the Teskey-Ala-Too ridge) from 1956 to the present time.

In their observations, the scientists note that the cumulative mass balance - the total negative mass balance was 29 thousand mm. This negative mass value has been observed since 1972, stating that the input part is much smaller than the output part. According to scientists, this is due to global climate change and an increase in average air temperature.

In turn, the Tien Shan weather station, located on a plateau at an altitude of about 3,610 m in the AK-shiyrak mountain massif near the Kumtor field, which has been operating continuously since 1930 for the period from 1930 to 2011, provides data on an increase in the average air temperature by 1.5 °C.

According to the Third National Address of the Kyrgyz Republic under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the average temperature increase throughout the Republic amounted to 0.8 °C, namely: in mountainous areas, the average temperature has increased much more where most of the glaciers are concentrated.

Consequently, the current process of melting glaciers and a positive trend in temperature led to an increase in the water content of glacial rivers component. Thus, according to observations of the hydrological post of the Agency for Hydrometeorology under the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Kyrgyz Republic located in Naryn, the average water flow on the Naryn river in 1970 - 1980 years was 85 m3 per second, while today it is 105 m3 per second, which results in 20 m3 per second more flow. At the same time, the frequency of precipitation during the observation period remains unchanged.

In addition, with the help of mathematical modeling of flow and mathematical modeling of the evolution of the Sary-Tor glacier, where the Naryn river originates, the Tien Shan center predicted that at the current rate of climate change, the water content of the Naryn river in 2040 will be lower compared to 2011. According to the forecasts of this Center, in case this pace continues, the area of glaciers will reduce against the background of unchanged precipitation. For example, the Kara-Batkak glacier retreated 450 meters from 1967 to 2018, the annual retreat is 8-10 meters. The same trend is observed on other reference glaciers, as all available data are transmitted to the world glacier monitoring service of the University of Zurich.

In the foreseeable future, the consequences of the current process of melting glaciers, in the opinion of some scientists and experts, can lead to a reduction in water resources, which in the future will become one of the most potential threats not only for the Central Asian countries, but also for the whole world. It is necessary now to focus regional attention on the zone of formation of water resources. Of course, the issue of improving the areas of formation of water resources is of long-term nature.

At the same time, there are clearly problems that require the adoption of joint urgent measures on the part of national states. First of all, we are talking about the management of numerous uranium tailings dumps in a number of republics of our region, which we inherited from the Soviet period.

As a result of the long-term activities of enterprises for the extraction and processing of uranium ores, rare earth elements, a huge amount of radioactive waste has accumulated, placed on the earth’s surface in dumps and tailings.

Perhaps, from the point of view of priority, they pose a primary threat to the entire region, since a number of large uranium tailings dumps are located in close proximity to rivers of water sources, in areas with close groundwater occurrence. In addition, most of the waste storage facilities are located in areas of high seismic and landslide activity, places of floods and mudslides.

To date, according to experts the greatest potential danger in terms of cross border movement

of radioactive materials is represented by the tailings in Mailu-Suu, due to the fact that most of the tailings are located along the bank of the Mailu-Suu river, which is one of the tributaries of the Syr Darya river, as evidenced by the reports of international organizations. It is well known that the Syr Darya flows through the densely populated Fergana valley and then - to Kazakhstan.

In addition, the Mayluu-Suu area belongs to the zone of high seismic intensity; according to the seismic zoning map of the Kyrgyz Republic, the likely magnitude of earthquakes in this area is within M > 7.0. Earthquakes of this magnitude can contribute to the descent of large landslides or destroy tailings, which can seriously affect the humanitarian and environmental security of the region.

Currently, in order to reduce the risk of radiation-hazardous environmental disasters and improve the environmental situation in the areas of radioactive waste, the Kyrgyz party, represented by the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Kyrgyz Republic, together with international organizations, is implementing a number of international projects, including those with the CIS member states.

However, for further joint solutions at the regional level, it is necessary to jointly develop:

  • interstate programs and projects in the field of monitoring, prevention, and elimination of potential contamination by radioactive waste;
  • harmonized approaches, indicators, methods and procedures for forecasting, monitoring, accounting and control of uranium tailings and mining dumps, ensuring comparability of data on an interstate scale;
  • harmonized decision on creation of a single interstate information system for radioactive waste management in Central Asia;
  • methodology for strengthening national capacity in terms of safety assessment and analytical capabilities in assessing risks associated with uranium tailings;
  • mechanism to attract funds from development partners, investments for the implementation of joint programs of rehabilitation, storage, burials, environmental protection and maintenance of tailing dumps.
Year: 2019
City: Almaty