Caspian Sea 2011


6.2. Consequences on environ- mental services and bioresources There are many stress factors impacting on the Caspian Sea region’s coastal and marine ecosys- tems and on its biodiversity — some are of natu- ral origin while others are the result of human activities. The most notable stress factors in the region are climate change, sea level rise and de- sertification. These factors are of complex origin and could be partly anthropogenic and partly the result of natural processes. Though less is known about the influence of earthquakes and under- water volcanoes, these are also important influ- ences on the region’s environment. Sedimenta- tion processes, which over the years have been responsible for the formation of present-day conditions in river deltas and wetlands, could also be a significant factor, depositing water sur- pluses into certain wetland areas and altering fish migration patterns. Among the main anthropogenic factors im- pacting the region are the oil industry associ- ated activities, water pollution from various sources and of varying levels of intensity, re- source extraction including oil, fishing and hunting, the development of coastal infrastruc- ture, and invasions of exotic species. Up to the present time, little has been known about the impact of climate change on the re- gion’s biodiversity. Climate change does not generally affect habitats directly, but change does take place through factors which are of- ten associated with climate change, such as sea level rise and desertification. Along the coasts of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran, desertification is apparent in several specific locations, though the reasons behind such environmental problems are often very dif- ferent. There are indications that periodic inun- dation of the land leads to soil salinization and desertification in the Kura lowlands. In Iran and Azerbaijan, a growth in population in some areas has led to extensive deforestation, with local peo- ple using up wood resources for domestic fuel.

Kazakhstan reports losing more than US$1 bil- lion due to damage related to flooding over the last decade (CEP 2007a). One million hectares of coastal land has been inundated, including 357,000 ha of agricultural land. Large land areas are now under the threat of storm surge flooding, including the city of Aktau, Bautino village, 23 set- tlements (20 in the Atyrau and 3 in the Mangystau region) and 28 oil and gas fields. Another 19 villag- es are to be relocated 9 , 40 km of railway has to be removed and six other oil fields are to be protect- ed in case of a sea level increase to -25 m. Coastal erosion due to storm surges threatens the Karagol waste field north of Aktau city (CEP 2007a). Coastal areas in the Russian Federation have not been significantly affected by the increase in the sea level. Erosion processes did occur on the banks of Sulak River in Dagestan and in coastal zones of Kalmykiya, but these were compensated by drifts in the Volga River. As in Kazakhstan, a significant threat to infrastruc- ture comes from storm surges, when the sea level could increase by 2.0 metres. The sea level rise posed a significant threat to communications and oil and gas infrastruc- ture on the Khazar peninsula in Turkmenistan. During the sea level rise of 1995, the peninsula actually became an island, cutting off the popu- lation — about 20,000 people – from the main- land. Water and gas pipelines and roads were flooded. The sea level rise and increased size of waves then resulted in damage to coastal areas around the town of Khazar, partially flooding the municipal wastewater processing plant, holiday houses and other structures. In the last decade the situation has stabilized, regular monitoring of the sea level is conducted.

9 According to the 2007 TDA revisit report, the protection of 17 villages in the Isataysky and Makhambetsky region, and 2 small settlements in the Kurmangazinsky region will not be economi- cally viable, therefore relocation should take place.


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