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Impossible to Turn Lop Nur Back into Permanent Lake

It is impossible to restore a permanent lake at Lop Nur inside Tarim Basin in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, said a Chinese scientist, who also said that it wasn't of much significance.

The conclusion was drawn by Xia Xuncheng, a noted researcher with the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.


Xia is one of the 20-member expedition team that has been studying environmental and ecological changes at Lop Nur, which used to be the site of a lake of more than 10,000 square kilometers.


Water resources in Lop Nur nurtured Loulan Kingdom, an ancient Chinese civilization that suddenly sank into oblivion along the Silk Road in northwest China about 2,000 years ago.


The lake would ultimately meet with the same fate. The water area of Lop Nur lake shrank to 5,350 sq km in 1958. And in 1972, it dried up completely.


Xia said two factors made it impossible to restore a permanent lake in Lop Nur.


On one hand, because of increased human activities, such as large-scale land reclamation and construction of more reservoirs and man-made canals to irrigate the reclaimed land, the Tarim River, Qarqan River and Konqi River, three prime waterways that used to feed Lop Nur, have long stopped discharging water to their respective lower reaches, where the former Lop Nur lake was located.


According to Xia, the area of arable land in Tarim River, the country's largest inland waterway that used to feed Lop Nur Lake, increased from 351,200 ha in 1949 to 776,600 ha in 1994. And during the 1949-1994 period, canals totaling 1,088 km, and 206 reservoirs with a combined storage capacity of 3 billion cum were constructed on the river and its tributaries to irrigate these farms.


Beyond that, no water area can exist long in Lop Nur, where annual rainfall is merely 17.4 mm, but the annual evaporation is as high as 2,902 mm, noted Xia.


Xia insisted, however, that discharging 300 million cu m of water from the Daxihaizi reservoir built on the Tarim River to the lower reaches would be vital to building Ruoqian county into a central city, preventing the linkup of the Taklimakan Desert and the Kumtaq Desert, ensuring smooth traffic on national highways No.218 and No. 314 and constructing of a projected railway connecting Qinghai Province and Xinjiang.


The Chinese scientific expedition team, which set off from Korla for Lop Nur last Friday, will travel more than 2,000 km in 10 days to make a thorough study on the causes of ecological deterioration in the Lop Nur area. They will also observe ecological changes in the area along the lower reaches of the Tarim River.


The scientists will also strive to spot the ecological and environmental changes that have taken place in the Lop Nur area in the past 1,000 years, in hopes of probing the secret of the "big ear" in Lop Nur seen on a satellite mapping, finding the cause of the disappearance of the ancient Loulan Kingdom, as well as exploring the possibility of rebuilding the ecological environment in Lop Nur.


(Xinhua News Agency September 10, 2004)

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