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There’s a lot of construction garbage floating, foam plastic pieces, plastic containers. You see, just as I said. For three days, dead fish floated. They probably had thrown away something from there. For three days. Then, a year later, there was dead fish again - for a day.

If you infuse water from Ili for a day in a warm place, you’ll see tapeworms in the water the next day. All the pheasants, ducks and boars drink from the river, and all animals get water from the Ile. Sheep, goats - everything dies. I don’t know why they die. They don’t tell us what’s the disease. I’ve been a fisherman since my childhood and there’s less and less fish and less and less water every year. Ile (river) on the verge Directed by Gibrat Bakayev A hydrologist’s job is actually interesting. It’s about being connected to nature all the time.

I mean, I love living in nature and I get paid for that - it’s awesome, isn’t it? My name’s Gusev Vasily Nikolaevich. I’m a hydrologist. I monitor Dobyn hydropost. My hydropost is about 30 km from the state border, down the river. I monitor the water temperature, daily drop in water level, and with the help of a profilograph, I measure the water volume that flows in a second in the Ili. There are several cross-border rivers with China in the Almaty region: the Tekes, the Chorgos, and the Ili (Ile).

The river Ili has always meant life. I’m a native resident of Almaty, born and raised. I’ve been baptized here and studied in Almaty. My father used to be the director of Balkhash National Reserve. We grew up here, on the riverbank.

And I can say that my whole life I’ve been witnessing these disasters, transformations of the river, what’s been changing at least over the past 35 years. "Willow", it's "Tree 3" speaking. Record the report, please. I dictate 14002103769130376. The water temperature is 18.7

In our spare time, we take care of the household, garden, and raise a few cows. And just as a hobby I work with metal. I’ve restored three retro cars.

I spent two years on the restoration of this one. I drove off-road yesterday so the car is dirty. Spent two years on restoration. I also do some woodwork, as a hobby. I do a little bit of everything. I’m keen on falcon hunting, fishing, and hunting.

How can I explain? The normal life of a free person. I’m Absimetov Saut Arupovich, I was born in 1947. I’ve been living here on the farm since 2002. We maintain the fields. We grow corn and clover and raise livestock. We mainly make a living from farming. We also receive a pension, a meagre pension.

I used to live on the bank of the Ili. I lived there for 15 years. I used to work as an operator and used to have a farm as well. We mostly used to make a living from farming, cattle, and sheep. I left the place because it became harder to live on the bank of the Ili those days. We needed to settle down. Since 1982, I and my wife lived alone, in the only house there.

Since 1982, I worked as a ranger, then moved to the other side. My wife said let’s move to the village to live among other people. We moved to Charyn, built a house, and bought this farm.

I’ve passed everything to my children. I’ve got two sons, a daughter, and 12 grandchildren. The children work now, and they’re responsible for the household. I and my wife have retired. We live peacefully in the village.

We sometimes monitor the kids, but usually, we don’t. Because the children are grown up. Here in the village, people are friendly. In Charyn we all have a close-knit relationship. We’ve Uyghurs, Kazakhs, a couple of Dungan families, and not so many Russians.

Our village is tight-knit. For example, a house was burned down last year and the villagers built a new house for the family just in a month. They bought for them everything: beds, dishes. Everything.

I was born here, in the village of Darbazkum. I was born in 1957. I’m 65 now. I’ve been living here for 65 years.

I retired two years ago. I drive thid “cool” car and go fishing from time to time. Then we haul some firewood. The car works somehow. Sometimes we take the horse and ride on a wagon.

We attach this wagon both to the horse and the car. For me, no river compares to the Ili. It’s the best river. We used to swim in the river, muddy from head to toe. We even used to drink that water.

The water used to taste amazing! Nowadays, the water’s got a bitter taste. You can’t drink it now. What a life, huh? It used to be the best place. The Ili used to have the cleanest water in the Zharkent region, even in the whole of Kazakhstan. And the Ili fish! The fish was so tasty. I’ve been to Kyzylorda, Katon-Karagay near Ust-Kamenogorsk, and the fish there tastes like pond scum.

But the Ili used to be different. It used to be the cleanest. Even the weather here is wonderful.

Tourists come here and spend a night on the riverbank. This is a wonderful place. This place is God's gift from Allah. Legend says Ili is a young woman’s name.

And Karatal is a man’s name. (The river Karatal flows into the Ili - author’s note) Everyone is against their love, so Ili runs away and unites with Karatal and they run together down there. And Balkhash, the girl's father, can’t catch up with them and dies. In the old days, they said that the Ili and Karatal rivers are traces left by their horses.

Hooves cut through the ground and left a trail. Folk legend says Balkhash can’t catch up with his daughter and son-in-law and dies And people say it might be a true story and probably the remains of Balkhash and his grave are over there. (swears) - what's up with that door In the 70s and 80s, it used to be different. Nowadays, you can see the other side, but the river used to be so wide that you couldn’t see the other side. We used to go to the other side and back by ferry, because Ili was wide and there was no bridge.

And the ferry could only carry six cars. The ferry didn’t operate during the snowstorms. You just had to wait on the bank. The Ili used to be great like that. And nowadays, you can just easily swim across the Ili.

You see, my darlings, the Ili used to be wide, and all this coastal plain was under the water. The river flowed here. And here there used to be huge meadows, such places were called "Maya" and we mowed hay. There would grow so much hay, you could never reap it all.

You guys can’t even imagine what the Ili means to me. You couldn’t find a more prosperous village. We wouldn’t bring the cattle to stables, they would just graze over here and we would just check on them sometimes.

Go, go, go! Go find me something! Good boy! Find me something. Well done, look look! My great-grandfather was born here, along the river, born and raised by the river Charyn. I was born here as well. I am now 65 years old. My great-grandfather would sow rice and rice, you know, requires a lot of water. And they say there was enough water to grow rice. As you know, you must grow rice in the water. My father worked on the state farm his whole life.

I grew up here, all my younger brothers grew up here. We’ve been living here since we were born. Nature is amazing here, but there are some issues as well. The river Ili is an ancient river. It flows into Kapchagai, from Kapchagai to lake Balkhash.

And the fish swims up here to spawn. Asp fish rises along the Ili River to the Charyn River. We could catch asp and carp even in our fields. A long time ago it was. If there isn't much water, the fish don’t spawn.

Everything here is connected to the river. I met my wife here, by the river. She was travelling here and we met when she was swimming. And she’s been living here since then. She started working for KazHydroMet, too. She’s the head of the hydrochemical laboratory. We work together: I’m a hydrologist and she’s a hydrochemist. I’ve got four children.

My eldest son is 22. He serves at the rescue service and saves people’s lives. Another son tragically died in a car accident in 2017. My middle son is 14, and we’ve got twins, they’re 2 years and 10 months old. Artyom and Vasilisa. I’d say I made myself a present for my 45th birthday.

My wife made me a present, not me. I’m from the Akmola region. I came here for a holiday, to swim in the river. That’s how we met. And I stayed here. We’ve been living together for 12, 13 years. We’re checking the water from the river for oxygen. I’ve analyzed the water.

I conserve the water and three times a month they collect it and take it to a large laboratory. They make further analysis there. He loves nature and animals. He’s got dogs, as well as birds. Everything is there. They pull him here. This is his place!

I ask him what we will do when the kids go to school. He says we’ll have to travel there every day. He says, “You’ll take them to the school and back and I’ll make money”. There used to be a tank farm and 8 houses, the elderly say.

But when I moved here there wasn’t anything. Even our KazHydroMet building was renovated in 2002. And there was the ranger’s house. There are only two households: I and my wife and the ranger with his wife.

Neighbours are like family here because when you live at such a distance from everyone, who else can help you? Only your neighbours. And by neighbours, we mean even those shepherds who live 5 km from here, 10 km from here. They’re our neighbours. And material relations are not that important to us. We value human relations here.

My neighbour looks after my house, I look after his. We’ve been neighbours for seven years. -It’s in front of our house. A drink? You’ve got a drink here. My neighbour is a good guy and we get on well. We often visit each other and share a meal.

He’s a great guy. I moved here seven years ago. There’s very little water in the river now.

Probably it’s because of draught or maybe neighbouring China has changed the flow - we don’t know. It started around 2010 or could be earlier, in 2008. Let’s say 2010. The amount of fish sharply decreased since then. There were so many silver carps in May, that it was difficult to sail. They would jump and bump into the boat. And now you can’t see them.

The carp also disappeared For instance, when I first started working here, the norm in summer used to be 800-900 cubic metres of water. The lowest numbers in summer used to be 400-500. And in recent years, my anti-record, that personally I recorded, was 63 cubic meters of water. It’s too little.

And the highest water volume recorded by me is 1800 cubic meters. Can you see the huge difference? In summer the volume drops significantly. Sometimes only 100 cubes of water run. 150-200. Eighty, ninety. For almost the entire summer. It’s nothing to Ili.

When I moved there between 1982 and 1990, it was easier. There was a lot of water in the river. There were a lot of fish and animals. And it’s getting worse and worse every year.

There wasn’t any water in the Ili for a few years Only this year is a little better. In the past, you could just walk across the river. Back then, when the fish would come to spawn, you could literally hear the noise made by fish. Carps and other fish would come to spawn but nowadays there are only a few fish spawning here Because the water is shallow. Or the water level grows up, the fish come to spawn and the water suddenly drops and all the fry dies. Hey, hold this.

We’re going to fish now. There are huge fish over there! Let’s go! It started in 1985, 1986 and in 87, 88 the Ili wasn’t getting enough water already. The water started shallowing. In the past, there were irrigation ditches around the village and 20 kg carps used to swim there and back to the Ili. Look, they will run and you should tell me when they run. There should be fish there. Alright?

Nature used to be generous, it would provide everything. We respected nature and hunted and fished only during the season. Nowadays the Ili is very shallow. Back then we used to go on barges, I even participated in a regatta. It was Regatta-2002. I used to sail on the river, the water was crystal clear.

Today, there is almost no spawning There’s very little fish because if the water is shallow, the fish doesn’t spawn. There’s only Chinese garbage in the river. There’s a bottle, a piece of foam plastic, and construction waste. Look at that pretty bottle.

Let’s see whose it is. A shoe is floating over there. Ah! Pay attention to this. Just in three minutes, not sailing anywhere.

You can see here loads of foam plastic crumbs. And this kind of surprise as well. There aren’t any settlements in our territory along the river from here until the state border. I’m not an ecologist but all this garbage in the river is not right. You can see enormous amounts of foam plastic, and plastic pieces in the river with your own eyes. The river not only feeds people, but the town of Kapchagay also drinks the water from the river.

so they say Some more plastic. There’s a lot of plastic and these are noticeable examples. Look over there. So much construction waste, Lots of plastic and styrofoam Oh, Pepsi cola! Pepsi cola with Chinese characters.

Yes, it’s always like this. When the water level rises, all the garbage goes to the banks. When the level falls, the water looks clean but the banks are full of trash. Then, all the trash goes back into the river during the next high water. This one doesn’t have a label. But it is clear.

I want to cry! This shouldn’t be happening! But this is happening. In the river I remember I’ve never seen this kind of plastic. It started a few years ago. Why is it happening? Oh, let’s go there.

See? Organic waste is okay but foam plastic crumbs stick to your hands. You barely touch the water. You can see it yourself, there’s no need to tell. What a shame! We’re even afraid of going swimming in this garbage dump. What can you call it other than a garbage dump? You can’t take your children here. How can they swim in this? I don’t know… It’s terrifying.!

It’s absolutely wrong. But it’s happening. You see everything for yourself Dead fish floated for three days for the first time in 1994. For three days and three nights.

Maybe they spilt something into the water in a Chinese factory. We don’t know exactly what happened. The fish was floating from there. We observed for 20 minutes and counted 60-70 dead fish bodies. Large fish bodies floated: carp, amur, silver carp and many others. Look, the water is full of foam plastic crumbs. They even stick to organic waste.

It’s very likely that fish eat these plastic crumbs and store them in their body. Of course, it can cause the death of fish. It was around 2004 or 2005. You can’t imagine how many fish died. You must see that. I’m not sure if the guys filmed it.

It was 2004 or 2005, I can’t remember. It was in the spring. Bodies of dead fish were floating. I’d never seen anything like that. All the guys remember this story People say the chinese has opened a chemical factory Opened other factories as well, people say.

But all the fish died. There is no fish now - China. You can’t drink the Ili water, it’s impossible. Take the Ile water and leave it for a day, the next day you will see tapeworms.

It wasn’t like this before. Every household in our village used to have 12-15 cows, 50-60 sheep and goats. People used to raise cows, and horses but the lower the water level, the fewer numbre of cattle. We’ve got a lot of cattle diseases nowadays because our water is spoiled. Many different things float.

You can see a variety of bottles from China and they’re closed so you don’t know what’s inside. The bottles get stuck in shallows and our cattle drink water from there and get sick. The cattle die because there are many different diseases. I’m 75 and I haven't seen cows having jaundice before. Cows are sick for a day, have high temperatures and then they freaking die. It wasn’t like this before.

We used to have just a couple of vets in our village and now we’ve got a handful of them. Cows are given shots every three months, antibiotics and stuff. But it’s not working. Sheep, goats, and cows just die out. I don’t know why. They don’t tell us what’s causing the deaths. They can’t even diagnose the cattle nowadays. They can’t figure out what the disease is.

So many vets can't figure it out. My racehorse got suddenly sick not so long ago. The vets examined him but couldn’t find anything. I said enough, don’t bother my horse. I treated him myself. It turned out to be a disease called “kekek” caused by poisoned hay.

I treated my horse with cow milk and he recovered. By the way, if you swim in the river you get a lot of red spots on your skin like something bit you. Then it turns onto scables. One of my grandchildren had it. They were running over here, I wanted to show you. They probably have run away. My grandchild swam in the river and then we tried to treat him for a long time and recently it got better.

If a worm penetrates the skin of a child, it cannot be treated by medicine. Where would you go with a child? That’s how we live now, guys. I’ve had two strokes and can’t even remember how many heart attacks. My heart even stopped once, and last time my heart rate dropped to 30 beats per minute. Back then our great-grandparents were long-livers because nature was clean.

They lived up until 90. My maternal ancestors lived up until more than 90 years old. I think it’s because of nature. The wildlife was rich. Everything was natural. I’ve been hunting since I was 18. We hunt game, boars - there used to be plenty.

All we had. But recently, we haven’t been seeing much. We used to go and hunt some game, but now you just get tired of walking. No rabbits, no pheasants. I don’t know what’s going on with our nature. I don’t know. Everything was fine 20 years ago,

but now, it’s not enough. few birds left. Pheasants, deers, and boars drink water from there. All animals drink the water of the Ili River. We live along the Charyn River, but it flows into the Ili. But on the Charyn, the animal population has declined greatly.

You don’t see them very often. I drove many kilometers and did not see a single roe deer. It was scientifically proven that in nature everything is connected to each other.

The food chain begins with microscopic plants and animals. There are fish and larva that feed on plankton. Mosquito larva feed on plankton, midges that live between water reed feed on larve Mosquito larva feed on plankton, midges that live between water reed feed on larve.

If there the water level isn’t high enough, there aren’t any mosquitoes. Everything is interrelated. Fish fry feed on mosquito larva. Dragonfly larvae feed A swallow catches a dragonfly and so on and so for. That’s how the food chain reaches top predators. If you break the food chain, everything will collapse, the whole balance. The water level must be high enough to flood into the meadows, and it must stay at a particular level at least for two weeks.

So that the fish can swim there and spawn. Then the water level must fall so that the fry can float into the river in the middle of summer. Nowadays, everything is controlled by humans. If the humans open the tap, the water flows. The fish are just trying to swim into these backwaters, and the tap is suddenly closed. By the tap, I mean the dam.

I assume our neighbouring county has its own dams and water collectors that influence this process. For example, the Kapchagay dam affects the level of the lower reaches of the Ili River. And the water here, I think, depends on the Chinese have the same dams I’m pretty sure it’s controlled by the Chinese. As I told you, last year there was almost no water in the Ili. They pump out 60-80% of water. They’ve got pumps everywhere because they also need water for agriculture.

It starts in China. People say it starts in China but in fact, it starts in Kazakhstan, flows to China and flows back to Kazakhstan. The length is about 700 km and the width is about 60 м. This is the place where the Ili flows into the lake Balkhash.

If you walk from here along the Ili to Balkhash about 11, 12 km. I started going for fish at 17. At first, I was just a regular fisherman on these boats. I learned a lot about being a fisherman.

Then I became a mechanic. I started as a fisherman but then I was enlisted in the army. When I came back in 1999, I had to start it again.

I was a regular fisherman on a boat for a while and then got promoted to a mechanic and then gradually I made it to a canal boat. This is my first barge, which I managed "Berkut". after that - on “Mirzhakip”. Targyn Mirzhakyp was the head of our village, Now he's already dead. He launched a fishing ficility and we started exporting abroad to Holland and Germany. When I gained experience, I was allowed to get this big boat which can carry up to 20 tons.

Lake Balkhash, the Ili River, saved from starvation a lot of people who moved to their shores (amine of the 1920-1930s - ed.) I moved here in 1991 and there were tons of fish and trucks full of fish. Just loads of fish. And now there is no fish because the water is blocked by the hotels, because they have opened local tourism. The lake and Balkhash area are being actively polluted.

What is local tourism? They greet guests, drive them around, and take them hunting and fishing. They have a licence but the licence is only an excuse. They’re harmful to nature, not beneficial. Tourists from cities come and just use their devices. When the fish is released, you can see the tourists sailing with electrical fishing rods. Electrical rods! There is the fry, it’s not even developed yet and because of those electrical rods, the fry is infertile.

How can the fish breed, if it’s harmed by electrical rods? We don’t need this kind of tourism. Tourists must be monitored and managed. All vacationers come. When they go hunting, they just want to shoot as much as possible. They don’t even eat those ducks, only shoot them all over the lakes.

They leave dead bodies of ducks which stink and rot in the water. That’s how our nature is destroyed. The Ili used to be the main river and now there is no Ili, it’s dissolved into small creeks.

The main riverbed has disappeared because it’s dried out. Previously, the channel was cleared with special equipment It used to be taken care of but now no one cares. No one looks after the river. The Ili no longer exist. The Ili used to be gigantic but now it’s like a canal overgrown with reeds.

You can’t even sail. If you want to sail in the river, these boats run aground and it’s very difficult to move. In 1990 - Balkhash was here. And now it’s overgrown with reeds and you have to walk 9 km to reach the lake. You can’t even walk now. Because there are shoals and marsh.

Since the year I started as a fisherman, there is less and less fish and water. Sometimes there is no river flow. Balkhash gets all its water from the Ili. Of the many tributaries, flows here It runs from China as inflows, as small rivers, divided into many parts. It eventually flows into Balkhash.

If the Ili River disappears, then Lake Balkhash will also disappear. It will repeat Aral’s story. (The Aral Sea dried up in the 1980 y. - author’s note) And we’ll end up with waterless ground. This area will turn into a desert. Water from the river flows to the Kapchagai hydroelectric power station.

If the Ili disappears, there will be no Kapchagay. Water gives us life. Everyone thinks their birthplace is the best. We were born and raised here. You sincerely love your village no matter where you go.

The air is fresh, you walk around freely, and the land is huge. If the authorities start thinking about this issue in the future I hope it will become as it was. I wonder what we are going to pass to our future generations.

Basically, the river is our defender, our nurturer. The river is our nurturer. What can be more delicious than the fish you caught yourself? Our village is our dear homeland. -You aren’t going to move away from here, are you? -I won’t move anywhere! Both my father and mother are buried here. I would never change my village for anywhere else. Nothing compares to it.

I married a Russian girl during my military service. She lives here as well and she doesn’t even want to go to Russia. No place compares to our village! The most sacred land! This is heaven on Earth. Our grandparents would say, Hey, don’t chase after money, chase after your honour, protect your honour! Nowadays, honour isn’t valued, they think they can buy everything.

They don’t realize they can’t buy their life. For the sake of Balkhash, I’d enthusiastically maintain order and clean out the reed so the fish could spawn there. But nothing is being done here, no one does anything. And the inspection is useless, doesn’t do anything.

Without control, Balkhal will simply disappear. The land feeds us. If there’s water, we can grow crops. And if there is no water, the land doesn’t give us any crops. Everything depends on water. If one day, with Allah’s help the water rises again, these lands will thrive again.

This place is gifted with prosperity. We must take proper care of the river. It’s our life. It was flowing before us it flows now and I hope it will flow long after us.

This is the beauty! This is our Kazakhstan! It’s our homeland! And we must save it, make it better and protect it. So we can enjoy the songs of kingfishers and nightingales. So that we can watch swifts fly in the sky.

Over the past 10 years, the water volume in the river Ili has dropped from 900 cubic metres to 400 cubic metres. It’s more than twice. In the past, lake Balkhash received 80% of its water from the Ili, while in the present. it’s only 30%. Scientists predict that if we don’t change the situation with the river, we’ll lose lake Balkhash in 15-20 years' time. After that, lake Alakol which is connected to it by underground waters will disappear too. We couldn’t save the Aral sea. Can we save the Ili and Balkhash? We express our gratitude to all the heroes of the film! Epilogue I know the Aral see existed, everyone is aware of it. And now it’s an ecological disaster.

But when they started developing the cotton industry In Uzbekistan, all the water from rivers was used for irrigation. The rivers were drained and the sea disappeared. Қазір деңгей төмендеп жатыр ма? Иә түсіп бара жатыр The level of Ili is falling down. My mates who live by Balkhash told me that the same is happening there. Small rivers and streams, such as Topar, dry up, and some lakes are disappearing. They also say that Balkhash is also decreasing. Although I haven't been there in over 20 years.

Who is responsible for that? We are, the humans are.

2022-10-15 12:54

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