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Lake Balkhash, Kazakhstan, Asia

April 22nd, 2006 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Lake Balkhash (Kazakh: Balqash Köli) is a large lake in southeastern Kazakhstan, the second largest in Central Asia after the Aral Sea. It is part of the huge west/Central Asian endorheic basin that includes the Caspian and Aral seas.

From as early as 103 BC up until the 8th century, the Balkhash polity was known to the Chinese as Pu-Ku/Bu-Ku. During China's Qing Dynasty, the lake formed the northwestern-most boundary of the Empire. However, in 1864, the lake and its neighbouring area was ceded to Imperial Russia through what Chinese histories call an unequal treaty, The Sino-Russian Treaty on the Northwestern Boundary. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the lake became part of Kazakhstan.

The lake currently covers 16,996 km² (6,562 sq mi), but, like the Aral Sea, it is shrinking because of the diversion of water from the rivers that feed it. The lake has a mean depth of 5.8 m, and a maximum of 25.6 m. The western half of the lake is fresh water, while the eastern half is salt water. The mean depth of the eastern part is 1.7 times that of the western. Approximately 1600 km to the Northwest lies Lake Baikal, the largest lake on Earth by volume.

The Balkhash inland basin drains into Lake Balkhash via seven rivers; chief among these is the Ili River, which brings the majority of the riparian inflow. The Ili is fed from precipitation (largely vernal snowmelt) from the mountains of China's Xinjiang region. The Balkhash basin is itself endorheic – there is no outflow – and Balkhash suffers from the same problems as other endorheic lakes.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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