Kazakh individuals are combating to protect the pure lakes of Nur‑Sultan

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For 2 years now, residents and specialists have been combating to protect the Taldykol pure lakes system within the new metropolis centre of Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, that metropolis authorities are filling as much as construct city housing estates.

Wetlands are oftentimes undervalued by most of the people, however in actuality, they supply a complete vary of ecological features, corresponding to downstream water provide, flood retention, groundwater recharge, pure air pollution elimination, and offering habitat for fish and wildlife. Whereas wetlands make up solely 6% of the planet’s land, their conservation is significant for arid areas like Kazakhstan, 70% of its territory is affected by desertification, and wetlands are a supply of very wanted freshwater.

Shaped within the panorama depressions between two rivers in what’s now the capital area, the Taldykol lakes system originated round 13 000 years in the past, on the flip of the Late Cretaceous and the Holocene.  The Taldykol lake system consists of lakes Bolshoi Taldykol, Olmes, Maly Taldykol (group of lakes) and Tassuat. It has been historically utilized by locals for fishing and agricultural functions, but additionally as a spot for residents to relaxation on the new summer season days.

For the reason that 70s, the effluents from Nur-Sultan, on the time referred to as Tselinograd, had been redirected to the Bolshoi Taldykol and Olmes lakes, the place they used to enter the water after mechanical and organic purification. In 2016, the discharge of sewage water utterly got here to a halt. This made house for a land reclamation challenge that lowered the water floor by 3 times its historic dimension – from 1500 ha to 500 ha. The authorities proudly introduced the outcomes, labelling the lake system as a inexperienced zone within the metropolis’s improvement plans.

Dalmatian Pelican, copyright Glyn Sellors, from the surfbirds galleries

This, nevertheless, was not sufficient. BirdLife’s Associate, the Affiliation for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan (ACBK) had been advocating for the creation of an city nature park within the capital metropolis for the preservation of the entire Taldykol lake system since 2012. The gathering of information on lake natural world and the park conceptualisation went on for a number of years, additionally because of our UK Associate, the Royal Society for the Safety of Birds (RSPB), that supported the challenge by means of numerous consultations and mutual area visits.

In 2017, the park challenge for the conservation of the entire Taldykol lakes system was lastly included within the metropolis’s environmental well being plan. Two years later, the analysis and design institute Astanagenlan along with ACBK specialists developed an in depth plan of town nature park on an space of ​​5 700 hectares, regrettably solely together with the Bolshoi Taldykol lake.

In the meantime, town stored rising, with constructions reaching the lake system and fragmenting the Maly Taldykol lake into seven sections. This meant that, remoted from the opposite lakes, the water degree began to drop. Including harm to insult, the businesses and town administration wasted no time and began actively backfilling the cavity to additional construct residential blocks.

As quickly because the residents grew to become conscious of the backfilling motion in opposition to the Maly Taldykol lake in the summertime of 2020, they kicked off the SOS Taldykol initiative to ascertain an open dialogue  between specialists, the general public, and town administration. The demand couldn’t be clearer: protect pure lakes. Through the very try to kickstart this dialogue, nevertheless, yet another website was coated in development and family waste, additional threatening the lake system. Town authorities proposed to create synthetic lakes, as a substitute of preserving the lakes at their pure state, deeming them as too closely polluted.

What the authorities are lacking is that lakes are alive and have the potential to get well and performance as wholesome wetlands. The range of chook populations within the space is the proof.

The territory of the Taldykol lake system hosts 168 species of birds, together with 86 species of waterbirds nesting across the lakes and stopping there through the seasonal migration interval. In 2020, the variety of birds nesting on all lakes and adjoining steppe areas was estimated between 1 600 and 5 000 pairs of assorted species, like Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelicanus crispus), Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus), Frequent Pochards (Aythya ferina), Little Bustards (Tetrax tetrax), and Black-winged Pratincoles (Glareola normani). On the eleventh of September 2021, the lake was visited by Better flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus), which drove much more momentum to the significance of preserving the lake. In simply 37 days, the petition in opposition to any additional development across the Maly Taldykol group of lakes noticed a flock of 12,000 extra signatures, an excellent achievement for a rustic whose inhabitants is about 19 million individuals.

With civil society and conservation NGOs advocating hand in hand, the combat to save lots of the historic landmark of the Taldykol lakes system remains to be ongoing. It will possibly nonetheless be saved, and nature in Kazakhstan is relying on it.

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