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Uploaded on Thursday 01 Mar 2012
Fragmentation of the Volga river over the last 60 years
Original cartography by Philippe Rekacewicz (le Monde Diplomatique) assisted by Laura Margueritte and Cecile Marin, later updated by Riccardo Pravettoni (GRID-Arendal), Novikov, Viktor (Zoi Environment Network)
The factors behind the changes in the level of the Caspian Sea are still the focus of debate. Scientists have not ruled out the involvement of tectonic (movement of the Earth’s crust below the sea) or geomorphologic causes (rate of sedimentation). However, these would appear to have a minor impact in comparison to changing climatic factors, combined with the effects of human management of surface water in the Caspian basin. Most of the water flowing into the sea comes
from coastal rivers. The quantity and quality of this
water, particularly that of the Volga, are key variables
in the balance of the Caspian. To this must be added
rainfall over the sea itself. Water may also be lost
through infiltration into the ground and flow into the
Kara Bogaz Gol gulf, but these factors are insignificant
compared with natural evaporation from the sea.
The construction of a large number of dams and
industrial facilities on the rivers feeding the Caspian
Sea has caused a significant change in the quantity
of water inflow. The creation of a succession of large
reservoirs, especially on the lower and middle Volga,
has led to significant losses in flow rate due to additional
evaporation from the surface of the water. Coupled with unsustainable water consumption, in particular
in connection with irrigation, the river flow rate is now
only 10 per cent of the natural levels.