Lake Balkhash

STS039-085-00E Lake Balkhash, Kazakhstan April 1991.jpg
Lake Balkhash (Kazakh: Балқаш көлі, Kazakh pronunciation: ; Russian: Озеро Балхаш, Ozero Balhaš) is one of the largest lakes in Asia and 15th largest in the world. It is located in Central Asia in southeastern Kazakhstan and belongs to an endorheic (closed) basin shared by Kazakhstan and China, with a small portion in Kyrgyzstan. The basin drains into the lake via seven rivers, the primary of which is the Ili River, bringing the majority of the riparian inflow; others, such as the Karatal, provide both surface and subsurface flow. The Ili is fed by precipitation, largely vernal snowmelt, from the mountains of China's Xinjiang region.

The lake currently covers an area of about 16,400 km2 (6,300 sq mi). However, like the Aral Sea, it is shrinking as a result of the diversion of water from rivers that feed it. The lake is divided by a strait into two distinct parts. The western part is fresh water, while the eastern half is saline. The eastern part is on average 1.7 times deeper than the western section. The largest city near the lake is also named Balkhash and has about 66,000 inhabitants. Major economic activities in the area include mining, ore processing and fishing.

While the size of the lake is temporarily growing, there is concern about the lake's shallowing due to desertification and industrial activity.

The present name of the lake originates from the word "balkas" of Tatar, Kazakh and Southern Altai languages which means "tussocks in a swamp".

From as early as 103 BC up until the 8th century, the Balkhash polity was known to the Chinese as 布谷/布库/布苏 "Pu-Ku/Bu-Ku". From the 8th century on, the land to the south of the lake, between it and the Tian Shan mountains, was known in Turkic as Jetisu "Seven Rivers" (Semirechye in Russian). It was a land where the nomadic Turks and Mongols of the steppe mingled cultures with the settled peoples of Central Asia.

During China's Qing dynasty (1644–1911), the lake formed the northwestern-most boundary of the Empire. In 1864, the lake and its neighboring area were ceded to Imperial Russia under the Protocol of Chuguchak. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the lake became part of Kazakhstan.

This page was last edited on 17 June 2018, at 03:17 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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