shrinking lake

March 1st, 2009

It’s a little concerning, this piece in the 新京报/The Beijing News. A lake in Xinjiang has shrunk to a third its former size.

But first a quick note: Because it’s Xinjiang, there’s going to be a little hassle with names, because we’d normally use some form of the Uighur/other local language name (Mongolian seems to be popular in this particular article) in English, and the Chinese names don’t necessarily translate back into a form likely to be seen on an English-language map. I’ll do my best, but there’s no guarantee I’ll get the names right….


Xinjiang’s Aibi Lake shrinks by 2/3 in 50 years


Aibi Lake, Xinjiang


Xinjiang’s Aibi Lake has severely shrunk over 50 years, with the surface area already not reaching one third of that of its most abundant time. A large area of lakebed has been exposed, becoming an environmental “killer”.

艾比湖位于准噶尔盆地的西北缘,有博尔塔拉河、精河、奎屯河、四棵树河和拉巴河汇入。艾比湖水面面积最大时达 1200多平方千米,年入湖水量达12亿立方米,由于上游地区开荒截流,目前入湖河流只有博尔塔拉河和精河两条,其他三条河在未进湖前就断流了,年入湖水 量只有5亿立方米,湖面锐减到400平方米。

Aibi Lake lies on the northwestern edge of the Junggar Basin, and is fed by the Bortala River, Jing River, Kuitun River, Four Trees (Sìkēshù) River and Laba River. At its largest, the surface area of Aibi Lake reached1200 square kilometres, with an annual inflow of 1.2 billion cubic metres. Because in the upper reaches wasteland was reclaimed and the rivers dammed, currently only two rivers, the Bortala and the Jing, flow into the lake, while the other three rivers stop flowing before the enter the lake, the annual inflow is only 500 million cubic metres and the lake surface has shrunk to 400 square metres.

[Uh, surely there’s a typo there? Shouldn’t 400平方米 be 400 平方千米- 400 square kilometres? Otherwise it’s one hell of a lot less than 1/3 of its greatest extent of 1200 square kilometres. Just for reference, 百度百科 has its area as 1070 square kilometres.]


The shrinking of Aibi Lake has led to a lowering of the water table, speeding up salinization and desertification in the areas around the basin, becoming the second biggest ecological problem troubling Xinjiang after the drying up of Lop Nur. The drying of the saline lands of the lakebed undergoes a repeated freezing and thawing, becoming powdery, becoming a salt-sand storm in high winds. To alleviate the current situation, the local government has tried to bring water into Aibi Lake, but to little effect.

Not a good situation, obviously, but it seems to be entirely manmade. But would undamming those three rivers do any good?

3 Responses to “shrinking lake”

  1. Josh Says:

    Thanks for the translation. Interestingly I’ve heard nothing of this from local news.

  2. wangbo Says:

    It often works out that way, with the story being broken out of the province. You’d have to ask Danwei about how such things work, though.

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