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THE FEROCIOUS DRAGON OF CENTRAL ASIA

Дата публикации: 31 марта 2016
Автор: Stepan Dvornikov, Alexander Raskin
Публикатор: А. Комиссаров
Рубрика: RUSSIA (TOPICS)
Источник: (c) Moscow News, 12-24-98
Номер публикации: №1459449038 / Жалобы? Ошибка? Выделите проблемный текст и нажмите CTRL+ENTER!


Stepan Dvornikov, Alexander Raskin, (c)

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Apprehensive of an impending natural catastrophe, Tajik authorities are seeking help from the UN

 

Over one and a half million people living in the regions adjoining the Panj River basin - citizens of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan - can at any moment fall prey to one of the most horrible inundations in mankind's history.

 

The threat lies in Lake Sarez, situated on the Pamirs. According to forecasts by Russia's Natural Resources Ministry, Soyuzvodoproyekt foreign-trade association, and Emergency Situations Ministry, in the event of a powerful earthquake measuring nine on the Richter scale, or even a landslide into the lake, the water can break through the barrier of rocky and loose soil surrounding the lake and rush into one of the most densely populated regions of Central Asia. Scientists say that the submerged area could stretch as far as the Aral Sea.*

 

That such an inundation could be one of the most disastrous on earth can be seen from the figures given by specialists: 100-meter high waves speeding at 80 km per hour to flood a territory of 30,000 to 50,000 square km inhabited by more than 1.5

 

million people.*

 

Since the mid-1970s Soviet scientists had known about the threat posed by Lake Sarez, nicknamed the Ferocious Dragon of Central Asia. The first expeditions were sent there to study the lake and the disaster it could cause. The expedition was primarily interested in how sturdy the Ussoy barrier was, and in the possibility of a landslide falling into the lake in the event of an earthquake. Accordingly, an automatic warning system was built in the vicinity of Lake Sarez: If the lake's water level began to rise, sensors would signal danger of a flood.*

 

But no expeditions have come to the lake after 1991. The warning system has gradually become useless, its sensors having been destroyed during the war that ravaged the area. Lake Sarez has been neglected for nearly 10 years now, while the danger it poses has increased. According to the most conservative estimate, the lake's current volume is about 17 cubic km, the amount increasing as the snow melts.*

 

Early this year, Lake Sarez played havoc on the nerves of the local inhabitants when an earthquake measuring six on the Richter scale hit Afghanistan, also affecting the Pamir area where the Ferocious Dragon is located. This prompted the Tajik government to ask the Russian Foreign Ministry for assistance in assessing the danger and preventing the destruction of the Ussoy barrier. But the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources said that just re-installing the war-destroyed warning system would cost more than $1 million, not counting expenses for the dispatching of specialists and their security guards to the area. So without waiting for help from Russia, Tajikistan made a request to the United Nations, on which the fate of Lake Sarez and 1.5 million people now depends.

 

Lake Sarez appeared high in the middle of the Pamirs mountains after an earthquake on February 18, 1911. An enormous mass of loose and rocky soil had slid off the Muzkol ridge into the river near the village of Ussoy, forming a natural dam nearly 600 meters high and four to five kilometers wide across the whole breadth of the river; the dam came to be called the Ussoy barrier.*

 

Today the barrier is 2.2 cubic km in volume, six km long, and 3.2 km wide. The lake thus formed is 55.8 km long, 3.2 km wide in its widest places, and 500 meters deep at its deepest.*

 

Опубликовано 31 марта 2016 года




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