Monday, June 9, 2008

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Lake Hamoun

Iran (Islamic Republic of), Afghanistan
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Iran's Lake Hamoun is fed primarily by water catchments in neighboring Afghanistan. In 1976, when rivers in Afghanistan were flowing regularly, the of lake's water level was relatively high. Between 1999 and 2001, however, the lake all but dried up and disappeared, as can be seen in the 2001 satellite image above.

The "dry phase" of Lake Hamoun is a striking example of how competition for scarce water resources can transform a landscape. When droughts occur in Afghanistan, or when water in watersheds that support Lake Hamoun are drawn down for other natural or human-induced reasons, the end result is a dry lakebed in Iran. In addition, when the lake is dry, seasonal winds blow fine sands off the exposed lakebed. The sand is swirled into huge dunes that may cover a hundred or more fishing villages along the former lakeshore. Wildlife around the lake is negatively impacted and fisheries are brought to a halt. Changes in water policies and substantial rains in the region saw a return of much of the water in Lake Hamoun by 2003 (see image series under photos).
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