Caspian Sea 2011

State of the Environment of the Caspian Sea

Turkmenistan agreed to break the artificial dam built in 1980 which blocked the Kara-Bogaz-Gol Gulf, allowing the outflow from the main water body into the bay – where the evaporation rate is much higher – in order to encourage a decrease in sea levels. This resulted in a 15 cm decrease, indicating that a regulating structure in the strait connecting the Caspian Sea and the Kara- Bogaz-Gol Gulf is needed. Such a structure could be beneficial to all Caspian Sea countries, as it would potentially offset the problems associated with sea level fluctuations (Panin 2006). Various studies carried out by Caspian Sea lit- toral states vary greatly. In some countries, for example in Kazakhstan, flood defense measures are already being designed — in tandem with the development of oil resources on the north- east shelf — while in other states, planning is only just beginning (CEP 2007a). Manifestation of climate change Apart from sea level rise, climate change has already manifested itself through an increasing number of natural disasters in the region such as droughts, floods, dust storms, mud flows, deser- tification and other serious problems. Contrasting rainfall trends have been ob- served in the Caspian Sea region. Rainfall over Russia has increased over the last century, while flooding incidents in the Caucasus and Elburz mountain valleys have dramatically in- creased, resulting in considerable loss of lives and widespread economic damage. At the same time, Iran is among those which have been se- verely affected by droughts. Climate change-related land degradation or desertification is another phenomenon affect- ing all Caspian Sea littoral states. In the normal course of events, a lack of rainfall and extreme summer evaporation result in a high level of aridity in the Caspian Sea region, especially in coastal areas of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. But deserts and desertification are not limited to the eastern part of the Caspian Sea coastal zone.

Land degradation hot spots stretch all around the Caspian Sea, caused by differing factors. The areas most prone to degradation are in Kazakh- stan, due to degradation of vegetation and soil through oil and gas production. Flooding inci- dents from 1979 to 1995 and increased saliniza- tion led to further adverse consequences. The most important factor leading to degradation in Russian territories surrounding the Caspian Sea — mainly in Chernije Zemli (Black Lands) region in the Kalmykhian Republic — is wind erosion. In the more humid coastal areas of Iran and Azerbaijan, where rainfall is more than 600- 1000 mm/year, deforestation and water erosion result in the degradation of vegetation. One of the main environmental problems of flatlands in the south of Turkmenistan remains high salinity

Regional land degradation


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