Trans Eurasia travel

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Bodies of water

Amu Darya River
Formed by the convergence of the Pyandzh and Vakhsh rivers along the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, the Amu Darya flows along the nation’s northeastern border. It is the longest river in Central Asia and primary source of water for Turkmenistan. Filled with sediment and navigable by only small boats, this river has been heavily dammed. The water level is declining and is one factor related to the drastic shrinking of the Aral Sea.

Tejen River
Known as the Harirud in Afghanistan where it originates, the Tejen follows a 1,130 km (702 mi) course and marks part of the Turkmenistan-Iran border before flowing into the steppes south of the Karakum desert. Fed by mountain snowmelt, the primary flow is between March and May. During the summer months, the river bed is frequently dry.

Murgab River
The headwaters of the 978 km (608 mi) Murgab River are in the western Hindu Kush. From its origin it flows west and then north through Afghanistan before crossing the Turkmenistan border, where it ultimately is absorbed into the sands of the Karakum desert. Increased concerns have been raised recently regarding the safety of the water drawn from the river. Because of its heavy concentrations of salt, the water has become undrinkable.

Originating in the Kopet-Dag mountains, the Atrek River becomes one segment of the border between Turkmenistan and Iran before flowing into the Caspian Sea, where it terminates in a boggy river delta. Since the end of the Cold War, the river valley has become of great interest to archaeologists, who have found connections between Middle Eastern and Central Asian cultures.

Karakum Canal
The rapid expansion of cultivation in the 1960s, coupled with scarce precipitation, leaves farmers heavily dependent upon irrigation to cultivate crops. The most important waterway is the Karakum Canal. Begun in the 1950s, construction was completed in the 1970s. It measures 1,400 km (870 mi) and traverses the length of the country. It is among the largest irrigation canals in the world.

Caspian Sea
Scholars disagree over whether the completely landlocked Caspian is a lake or a sea. Because it is landlocked, the law of the sea (which extends navigation rights to all states) does not govern its waters. Traditionally, it has been used only by the nations that border it: Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. The Caspian has substantial proved oil reserves, although there is debate about exactly how much. The division of oil rights has proved contentious among border countries, and an agreement on seabed and maritime boundaries has not been reached. This has stalled exploration. The Turkmenistan government has moved ahead on a multimillion dollar resort project on the shores of the Caspian, to attract tourism. Having built a number of artificial lakes, Turkmenistan has started to build another in the Karakum desert. Known as Altyn Asyr, the first stage of the lake was completed in the summer of 2009. The new lake will supply necessary water and will feed into Ashgabat via a man-made river. The estimated time to completion is 20 years, and the ecological impact of this project has generated controversy.