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British engineer to save dying Aral Sea

MOTT MACDONALD was this week gearing up to supervise the building of an earthfill barrier to raise water levels in part of Kazakhstan's Aral Sea, which has shrunk by more than 50% since 1960.

The British consultant, which also designed the scheme, will oversee Russian and Chinese contractors as they build the barrier. It will cut the small northern part of the Aral Sea from the far larger southern portion.

The dam is designed to boost the volume of water held in the Aral Sea by turning it into a reservoir.

Once the fourth largest lake in the world, the Aral Sea has been starved of water by agricultural irrigation.

This reduction in volume has affected climate in the region, as large bodies of water have a cooling effect in summer due to water's insulating properties.

This has led summer temperatures to become more extreme, with the remaining lake water becoming saline and pesticide pollution concentrated, destroying fisheries and bird and plant life.

The £57M scheme, funded by the World Bank and the Kazakh government, will also involve repairing or replacing severely degraded irrigation and hydropower power dams and navigation structures along the 900km length of the River Syr Darya, north of the Aral, to improve river flow.

It is hoped that within a decade water level in the north Aral can be raised to near its original height, restoring commercial fisheries and pastureland.

INFOPLUS www. dfd. dlr. de/app/land/aralsee

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