Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Land Degredation in Central Asia

 The degradation of land and other natural resources contributing to agricultural production, is a serious socioeconomic and environmental problem in Central Asia. It adversely affects, among other things, food production and biodiversity. Decades of poorly managed irrigated agriculture has done considerable damage to vast areas of land in Central Asia. Scientists point out a few major types of land degradation in the region. Water and wind erosion, often linked to poor agricultural practices, plays a big role. In Uzbekistan, some 800,000 ha of the irrigated croplands are estimated to be subject to serious soil erosion. And more than 50 per cent of the farmlands are estimated to suffer from serious wind erosion. These factors contribute to soil fertility decline. Another problem is waterlogging, which is closely linked with salinisation. Both are caused by inappropriate irrigation. Recent estimates suggest that between 40 and 60 per cent of the irrigated croplands in Central Asia are salt-affected and/or waterlogged. This consequently leads to decreased plant growth and yields. Overgrazing of livestock also puts considerable pressure on rangelands, the predominant landscape in Central Asia.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Desert Saxaul (Haloxylon)

Photo: Black Saxaul (Haloxylon ammodendron)

Saxaul is found over a huge area (approx. 450,000 sq. km) of semi-arid and arid ecosystems within Central Asia. These so called cold winter deserts range through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan and into Northwest-China (Xinjiang) and Mongolia. Saxual is found either as a small to large shrub or as a small tree.

Saxaul ranges in size from 2-8 m tall (in rare cases up to 10-12 m tall). It has a brown trunk 4-10 cm (up to 25cm) in diameter. Its wood is heavy and coarse and the bark is spongy and water-soaked. The branches of the young trees are vivid green (new growth) and hanging and turn brown, grey, or white as the tree matures. Branches formed in the current year are green whereas older branches are brown, or grey to white, the leaves of the plant are reduced to very small cusp-like scales, so that it appears nearly leafless. The inflorescences consist of short lateral shoots borne on stems of the previous year and flowers are bisexual or male, very small, als being longer or shorter than the bracteoles. The leaves are reduced to very small, pointed scales so that the plant appears nearly leafless. The flowers are small and yellow.  Flowers appear from March to April. In its fruit, the perianth segments develop, spreading pale brown or white wings diameter of about 8 mm (the seeds about 1.5 mm). Fruits appearing from October to November.

Saxaul burns well and in some places it is the only kind of fuel wood that can be utilised for heating and cooking. It is also an important source of water in the arid regions in which it grows. Its thick bark acts as a water storage organ and drinking water can be obtained by pressing quantities of bark. Its wood is also durable and heavy and is used for building shelters. 

Saxaul sparrow (Passer ammodendri
A large number of birds including the Saxaul sparrow (Passer ammodendri) are associated with the Saxaul. They are at 14–16 cm long and weight 25–32 grams making them among the larger sparrow species.  A bird of the deserts, the saxaul sparrow favours areas with shrubs like the saxaul located near rivers and oases. Though it has lost parts of its range due to the expansion of agriculture, to date it is not seriously threatened by human activities.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

IBRD to assist Uzbekistan strengthen Water Resource Management in South Karakalpakstan

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (part of the World Bank) will allocate a loan worth $260.72 million to improve water resource management in South Karakalpakstan.

The loan used to fund a project to rehabilitate existing irrigation networks and improve water management practices to make them sustainable and financially effective. In addition its aims to eliminate the current dependence of farmers in South Karakalpakstan on energy-inefficient pumping by developing a gravity off-take from the Tuyamuyun reservoir and dismantling pumping stations.

The aim is to improve water resources management and irrigation management in South Karakalpakstan by making it more effective and thus increase the areas areas agricultural productivity and ability to resist the effects of climate change. Further to strengthen existing institutions and capacities, and improve performance of public irrigation and drainage service delivery and the promoting crop diversification away from cotton and towards higher value crops.

The South Karakalpakstan Water Resource Management Improvement Project area is located less than 100 km from the city of Nukus in the north, the capital of Karakalpakstan, and about 20 km from the city of Urgench in the west, the capital of Khorezm Oblast. Almost the entire drainage system of the South Karakalpakstan Right Bank system has been already been successfully rehabilitated at a cost to date of some US$ 60 million equivalent.
The newly constructed main drain and the rehabilitated on-farm and inter-farm drainage system are to be improved.

The project should save some 10 million cubic meters of water resources annually (reducing the cost of mechanical watering savings $2.39 million a year) by eliminating farmers need to use energy intensive pumps to lift water from the Amu Darya River.