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2.1 Terrain

Turkmenistan is the state in the Central Asia. It is located between 35°08' and 42°48' of northern latitude and 52°27' and 66°41' of eastern longitude, to the north of the Kopetdag moun­tains, between the Caspian Sea in the west and Amudarya riv­er in the east.
The territory of Turkmenistan stretches for 1,110 kms.from west to east and 650 kms. from north to south.The area is 491.2 thousand sq. km.Turkmenistan borders in the north and north-east with Ka­zakhstan and Uzbekistan, in the south and south-east with Iran and Afghanistan. In the west Turkmenistan is washed by the Caspian sea.
The lay of land in the country is distinguished by its di­versity and contrasts. The major part of the territory, about 80% is occupied by the Karakum desert, and the other 20% are tak­en up by mountains, plains and hills. The desert relief domi­nates, that makes the land of Turkmenistan distinctive and picturesque.The Karakum desert by its origin is a product of the re­generation of the ancient sea Tetis, great Amudarya, where its tributaries were the modern rivers Tedjen and Murgab, as well as of the proalluvial activity of temporary waterflows from the Kopetdag mountains and many other factors.
At first sight the relief of the desert seems to be monoto­nous, however, there are various sandy forms on this territory: ridges, hills, barkhans and their combinations. The wind playsan important role in forming such combinations. Among sands it is possible to meet the extensive loamy spaces - takyr type soils and hard salted, with special dark coating, salt marshes.Another forms of the relief are also typical for the desert -closed cavities, smooth plains with precipices and extensive Caspian lowland which lies below the sea level. Its northern part, where salt marsh Kelkor is situated, lies below the ocean level by 25 m.In the north of Turkmenistan there is the Sarykamysh cavity, its bottom lies below the hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiocean level by 38 m. To the south of it there is Akchakay cavity, the lowest point of Turkmenistan ( -81 m.). In the north - west there is Karashor cavity stretching out for 100 km (-28 m).
The mountains lie in the south and south - east of Turkmenistan. The largest of them are the Kopetdag mountains stretching for 650 kms, from the north - west to the south -east. The highest peak of the Kopetdag mountains in Turkmenistan is the mountain Shah-Shah of 2,912 m. The main mountain ranges go in parallel to each other, they are divided among themselves by valleys.
In the south - east part of Turkmenistan on a right bank of the Amudarya river there are the Kugitangtay mountains which are the spurs of the Gissar mountains. Just in these places one can see unique sights of nature and rare endemic animals. There are such unique territories as Dinozavr plateau, numerous caves (Kopkatan and etc.), karst lakes and craters, Ayrybaba peak of 3,139 m. It is the highest peak of Turkmenistan.In the west of Turkmenistan there are isolated mountain chains: the Large and Small Balkhans. The highest peak of the Large Balkan chain is the Arlan mountain -1,881 m. The height of the Small Balkan is 774 m.To the west of the ancient channel of the river Uzboy there are individual hills with a height of not over 300 m. -Ersarybaba, Akkyr, Tekedjik, Tuarkyr, Kaplankyr, Koymatdag and etc. The general name of these hills is the Zauzboyskiy region. The extensive salt marshes lie between them.The hills Badhyz and Karabil are situated in the south of Turkmenistan. The landscapes of Badhyz are unique and picturesque: Kyzyldjar and Eroylandyz cavity at the bottom of which there are deposits of salts.
The land surface of Turkmenistan is diverse and original. It has a strong impact on the formation of the top soil cover, of desert and mountain landscapes in particular.
The total area of Turkmenistan is 49120.9 thousand ha. As of 1. 01. 99 the area of agricultural lands is 40329.1 thousand ha or 82 % of the total area, of which arable lands occupy 1701.2 thousand ha, (irrigated 1677.3 thousand ha), perennials- 61.9 thousand ha, virgin lands - 61.1 thousand ha hayfields - 10.4 thousand ha and pastures - 38494.5 thousand ha.
The total area of the lands suitable for irrigation is 17 million hectares, of which 1756.0 thousand ha are irrigated. Pastures make up 78 % of the territory.
In average there are 10.0 hectares of land, including 0.32 ha of arable lands per one person in Turkmenistan.
In Turkmenistan there were considerable changes in the structure of land holding. At present the non-state sector involves 145 thousand ha of irrigated lands.

The detailed studies of geological structures and proper fulfillment of exploration works to prove the availability of mineral resources at certain fields should support the soundness of raw materials base which is very important for the industry development.
There are 155 proven deposits in Turkmenistan containing industrial reserves of hydrocarbons, of which 28 are oil and gas, 127 - gas, including 70 gas condensate fields. They are the reliable sources of raw materials for the development of oil and gas industry of the country.
Turkmenistan has gas reserves of approximately 23 trillion cu.m. and more than 12 billion tons of oil.
45 oil and gas fields (including 3 offshore fields) are being developed, 8 fields are conserved, 18 fields are completely explored, and the rest are under exploration.
In Turkmenistan 32 deposits were opened during the years of independence. According to the results of the exploring works of the State corporation «Turkmengeology» the reserves of the new deposits account to 294,2 million tons of conditional fuel.
The controlling parameters for the deposits development are stated in the Concept of the President Saparmurat Turkmenbashi «Oil industry development in Turkmenistan over the period up to 2020».
At the first meeting of the National Geology Committee the reserves of large Gurrukbil deposit were certified by the categories ABC1 + C2 at 101,4 billion cu.m.
In addition to hydrocarbons resources, Turkmenistan is also rich in mineral resources. At present moment there are 161 deposits of hard mineral resources in Turkmenistan , including deposits of coal, sulfur, mineral salts, kaolin, bentonit, ozokerit, mineral paints, raw carbon and different building materials.
Over eight years of the independence (1991-1999) the geologists opened 26 deposits of solid mineral resources.They are: Koytendag deposit of native sulfur, cement, Hodjagyam and Koytendag deposits of rock salt, Gyzylgay deposit of kaolin, Tuvergyr deposit of coal, Dyzmergen and Tagarin deposits of facing materials, different building materials. Good results have been got when exploring the copper bearing sand stones, manganese, gold, and alunites. The exploration works on gold are coming to an end in Tuvergyr, where the main main phenomena of mineralization changes have been revealed, the promising sites have been marked.
The exploration works are finished at Zylfagar alunits field where the size of alunite rocks reaches 40 m., the alunites contents is 40-60%. The reserves are 32 mln. ton.
Today there is the potential for the tile production from the plastic clay found at Hor-Hor, Djebel, Uzynsyv fields. The additional exploration and preparation works are now conducted to put the Djebel field into operation.
The new deposits of solid mineral resources are available in all velayats (regions) of Turkmenistan and their development will boost the processes of economic reforms at all places of the country.
Five new deposits are prepared for operation in Balkan velayt of Turkmenistan: Tuvergyr - coal, Gazandjik and Duzmergen - limestones, Gyzylgay - kaolin bearing sand stones, Yagman - clay stones . In Akhal velayt 3 deposits have been explored: Serahs - plastic clay, Kaushut - sand gravelly mixtures, Babadurmaz - quartz sands. In Mary velayt 2 new deposits of plastic clay have been found: Amankhanyab and Hindigush deposits. In Lebap velayt 9 deposits are opened: Koytendag - natural sulfur; Koytendag, Yzlygyi and Hodjakiym - rock salt; Gazachak - clay and sand; Lebap - sand; Tagarin and Govurdak - limestones; Koytendag - cement. In Dashoguz

2.2 Flora and fauna

The flora of Turkmenistan is rather peculiar and completely differs from the neighboring states. The Oflora of the plants of Turkmenistan includes about 3,000 kinds and more than 80 % of this number are concentrated in its mountain part. It includes the representatives from 118 families and 846 geneses. Spore and seed plants unite the representatives of 16 geneses and 31 kinds. The higher water plants include 9 families, 13 geneses and 27 kinds. The number of monocotyledonous plants of Turkmenistan is 506 kinds, and dicotyledonous include more than 2400 kinds.
The larger part of plants is of a big economic value. There are more than 1200 kinds of plants presenting medical, food, oil, fodder and technical values. Among them there are various nuts: pistachio, Greek nut, almonds and many others. Among the resource plants of Turkmenistan the important ones are hips - 12 kinds, conifers - 10 kinds, thorny plants, wormwoods - 32 kinds.

All work connected with the use of plant resources, including liquorice being the main source of foreign currency revenues to Turkmenistan, is based on the recommendations of planting resources laboratory and is carried out in the system of Turkmen State Scientific Production Association «Turkmenderman». The Food Industry Association of Turkmenistan included into production about 40 kinds of plants of local flora to get new 12 kinds of alcohol free drinks («Firyza», «Altynsyv», «Balkan», «Badhyz», «Akdjagyl» etc.).
The fauna of invertebrates and vertebrates of Turkmenistan is extremely rich and diverse. This region is of interest as the zone of the habitats of species of various origin, ecological features and their relation to zoo-geographical complexes.
In Turkmenistan there are more than 15 thousand kinds of invertebrates. Many kinds are not described yet and will be studied further.
The vertebrates of Turkmenistan, unlike invertebrates are investigated in a full measure. Now 695 vertebrates inhabit the country (107 species of fish, 5 amphibious species, 82 reptiles species, 397 species of birds, 103 species of mammals), presenting 41 groups, 103 families and 319 geneses.
The biological diversity in many respects depends on the protection of rare and endangered species in main regions, one of which is Turkmenistan. Its fauna comprises rather large of endemic species.
The loss of any species is rather sensitive, therefore 1 kind of spiders, 1 kind of mollusks, 43 kinds of insects, 13 kinds of fish, 23 kinds of amphibious and reptiles, 41 kinds of birds, 30 kinds of mammals are inserted to the second edition of the «Red Book of Turkmenistan.

2.3 Climate

The climate of Turkmenistan is sharp continental and extremely dry. The main features of the climate are high temperatures of the air and soil, extreme dryness in summer period, and also extremely large contrasts of weather in cold and even in warm period. Small quantity of atmospheric precipitation, cloudiness and high evaporability are characteristic for the climate of Turkmenistan. Duration of sunny radiance is large: in average 2,800-3,095 hours a year.
The average annual air temperature on the whole territory of the country varies from 11 to 13°C in the north, to 15-18°C in the south- east. In the mountains at the height of 1500-2000 m. the temperature falls to 7-10°C.
The average temperature in January changes from -6°C in the north - east up to + 3°C in the south-east and up to + 5 in far south - west. The average temperature in July varies from 27°C up to 32.4°C. In Kopetdag at the height of 2,000 m (Heyrabad place) the temperature is 17.4°C.
One can observe large daily and annual fluctuations of the air temperature because of sharp continental type of climate. The contrasts of the climate may be noticed in frequent weather changes during several days or even during one day. Duration of warm period in the territory of the country is 230-250 days, except the north-eastern regions where warm period is about 200 days.
The average annual cloudiness is 3-4 numbers, making in June - August - 1 number, and in January - 6-7 numbers. The average annual quantity of bright days is 100-185.
The average annual precipitation is 76-398 mm. In the north- east of the country, Zayngyz Karakum and Karabogazgol bay it is less than 100 mm; in Karakum - up to 150 mm; mountainous zone, south and south-east - up to 250mm; mountains - more than 250 mm .During the cold period the quantity of precipitation is 2-3 times larger, than in warm period. The average annual size of the absolute air humidity changes from 6 to 14 years. In January the relative air humidity is the highest 70-78%. In the driest period, from June to September the humidity in Karakum is 20-30%, in oases - 30-35%, being at the same time rather high in littoral regions of Gasan-Kuli - 69%. The annual size of evaporation from reservoirs changes from 1,000 to 2,300 mm.
In the northern part of Turkmenistan the north- east winds prevail, while in the central part and near Kopetdag mountains the east winds and in south-eastern Karakum the north winds blow very often. In the south- east of the country in some regions the north winds are replaced by the north- west winds because of the relief.

2.4 Lakes and rivers

There are several large rivers in Turkmenistan the sourc­es of which are in high-mountainous regions, outside Turkmen­istan. They provide irrigation of a large part of land and the availability of oases.
Amudarya is the largest river of the Central Asia. Its length is 2,620 km., the area of its basin is 309.0 thousand sq km., but in fact its catchment area does not exceed 199.4 thousand sq km. The mountainous part of the basin of Amudarya is located in the extensive Pamiro-Altay mountains, where the height of mountains is 7,500 m. The river flows for more than 1,000 km. along the desert plain. Turkmenistan annually gets in average 21.6 cu.km/p.a. of the Amudarya river water. This river crosses the state boundary by 20 km. upward of Kelif gorge through the spurs of Kugitangtay mountains. The middle part and some portion of the lower stream of. Amudarya is in Turkmenistan. This is the river of ice - snow feeding. Over 80% of the flow are formed by the waters of the rivers Pandj and Vahsh. The prolonged spring and summer floods, as well as stable autumn and winter levels are usual for Amudarya. Usually, the rise of the level of water begins in March- April and ends in July. The maximum consumption of water is about 9,000 cum/sec, minimum - 400-500 cu.m./sec.
Murgab - begins in Paropamiz and flows in the south­eastern part of Turkmenistan. The length of the river is 978 km., the area of basin is about 60 thousand sq. km. The catch­ment area ( the mountain part) has about 47 thousand sq. km., 80 % of which is in Afghanistan, where Murgab's flow and re­gime are formed. Murgab feeds on snow and rain. Many tribu­taries - the mountain rivers fall into Murgab in the upper stream. This river has two left tributaries - Kashan arid Kushka in the territory of Turkmenistan.
Kashan falls into Murgab after 500 km. from the conditionally marked mouth. The area of the basin of the river is 7 thousand sq km, the main part of the river is situated in Afghanistan. Rains play an important role in river's feeding. The level of water in Kashan is low and in summer period inside Afghanistan the river dries out.
Kushka falls into Murgab after 447 km from the conditionally marked mouth, the area of the basin is 10.7 thousand sq. km. more than 6 thousand sq.km.of which are in Afghanistan.The river feeds on rains and snow, due to it the main high flood happens in March-May, making 70-80 % of an annual flow. In summer period the river dries up inside Turkmenistan. The average of many years expense of water is about 3.3 cu.m./sec, maximum - up to 740 cum/sec. The average of many years water mineralization in the river is 1.7 g/l.
Tedjen - the river is situated to the west of Murgab and exceeds Murgab's length and size of catchment area, but the level of water is low. The catchment area is 70.6 thousand sq.km., more than 50 thousand sq.km. of which is outside Turkmenistan. The source of Tedjen river is the place where several mountain streams flowing down Kugi-Hissar range (Paropamiz) in Afghanistan meet. The length of the river is 1,150 km. The river feeds on snow and rains of winter-spring period,
Atrek is the only river of Turkmenistan which reaches the Caspian sea. However, because of the extensive taking of wa­ter for irrigation in Turkmenistan and Iran the flow of Atrek riv­er is small and its waters fall into the sea only in high-flood period.The mountain part of the basin is the catchment mak­ing 27.3 thousand sq.km. About 20 thousand sq.km.from this volume is in Iran. The length of the river is 635 km. The river feeds on snow and rains. Atrek has a great number of tributar­ies, especially in the upper and middle streams. The largest one is the river Sumbar, which has a constant flow. The length of the river is 247 km, area of the basin is 8,517 sq.km.
In Turkmenistan the small rivers (about 30) are concen­trated mainly in Kopetdag and Kugitangtau mountains. All of them are small: their areas of the catchment change from tens of thousand up to 3 thousand cubic kilometers, but their lengths do not exceed several tens of kilometers. The rivers flow along valleys, some parts of gorges and canyons. The water of the greater part of the rivers is used for irrigation within mountains and foothills. The level of water of the rivers of Kopetdag is low: the water expense does not exceed 0.5-1.0 cu. m./sec.
The man - made hydrographic network is a character­istic element of desert zone and consists of a number of irri­gation (the length 39.1 thousand sq.km.) and collector-drain channels having length of 35.14 thousand km. The length of the largest canal having the status of the river - Karakum is 1300 km. It is the artificial river in the desert - the second after Amudarya, according to the level of water.
The lakes. The lakes are mainly situated in the rivers flood lands or in the regions adjacent to the ending parts of irriga­tion, collector - drain systems. There are about 30 lakes in the area of Murgab, their area does not exceed 10-20 ha, the av­erage depth is 2-3 m. The waters of the lakes which have lost linkages with rivers are salty. Some large lakes are nearby the Kelif Uzboy. During the construction of the Karakum river they were connected by channels and serve for collection of sedi­ments coming with the water from the Amudarya river. The nu­merous lakes of filter origin appeared in the Karakum river zone . Some small lakes with a bitter and salty water and three with a fresh water (Yaskhan, Kara-Tegelek, Topiatan) are located in a dry bed of West Uzboy. During the last years, due to the drainage waters many small lakes and floods have appeared in the region of Karakum, adjacent to Murgab and Tedjen oa­ses. The largest one is the Sarakamysh lake which appeared at the result of draining. Its area is over 2,200 sq. km.
The Caspian Sea is the largest in the world inland salty sea (lake) which has no connection with the World Ocean. Its area is about 380 thousand sq. km., the length of its coast line is about 7 thousand sq. km.

2.5 Protected lands

Environment protection: The strategy of the economic development of Turkmenistan is based on the integrity of social, economic and ecological priorities. The President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Turkmenbashi notes «When implementing economic activities, using natural resources, we should always remember that nature is vulnerable and if not to take care of it the future generations will have to apply much more efforts and money for its rehabilitation» .Since the first days of independence Turkmenistan participates in global actions being undertaken by the international community to mitigate environmental risks which could have detrimental social impacts.The ratification by Turkmenistan of a number of international nature conservation conventions is the evidence of a great attention of our country to the ecological challenges. These are the Frame convention on climate changes, Convention on biodversity, Convention on desertification, the Vienna Convention, Montreal Protocol on depletion of the ozone layer.Recently Mejlis (the Parliament) ratified the Orhur Convention on the access of public to the information connected with issues on the environmental management.The legal framework with regard to the environment management is being prepared. In Turkmenistan, over the years of the Independence, about 10 laws concerning nature conservation have been issued. «On Nature Conservations (1991), «State Protected Territories)) (1992), «Protection and Rational Use of Plants» (1993), «State Ecological Expertize)) (1995), « Atmospheric Air protections (1996), «Protection and Rational Use of Wildlife» (1997) and others. The environment protection is the responsibility of legal entities indicated in sanitation codes (wood, water, air) and in criminal legislation. The medical certification of the quality of products was introduced in 1998. Over the years of independence the close relations of nature protection bodies of Turkmenistan with the international organizations (UNDP, UNEP, WHO, etc.) have been established.
Under the decree of the President of Turkmenistan the special State Committee was set up to ensure the fulfillment of the commitments of Turkmenistan, prescribed by the UN conventions and programs on environment. The development of the project of national environmental action plan is coming to an end. This work is carried out under the support of Turkmenistan's Government and UNDP. The program accounts the regional features and priorities and also concerns the issues of Global Forum on the development and environment protection in Rio de Janeiro «The XXIst Century « .The state ecological control is carried out in Turkmenistan. The Ministry of Nature and the local government authorities and also special bodies: sanitary - epidemic inspection of the Ministry of Health, transport- police of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Fish Protection Inspection, the Main State Inspection etc. are responsible for this control
The broad network of monitoring and state control over the environmental condition, pollution levels is established in in accordance with the Law on «State Ecological Expertise*. The agencies of the agricultural control take particular measures for the rational use of land, for the protection of land from erosion.
PROTECTED TERRITORIES: According to the law of Turkmenistan «On State Protected Territories)) the state reserves, national parks and territories suitable for health rehabilitation are protected by state. The special agencies are responsible for the protection of reservers, woodlands, national parks and territories suitable for health rehabilitufion. At present time there are eight protected territories with the total area of 819 thousand ha. Flora, fauna and landscape of these territories are studied and protected.
The unique protected lands of the country are Kopetdag (498 sq. km.), Synt-Hasardag (265 sq. km.), Hazar (2624 sq. km.)
Badhyz (877 sq. km.), Amudarya (485 sq km), Kugitang (271 sq. km.), Repetek (346 sq. km.), Kaplankyr (2828 sq. km.).

For a person who looks at a map of Turkmenistan for the first time it presents an uninterrupted desert. It is not surprising. The substantial part of the total territory of Turkmenistan is occupied by Karakum sands. Still the first impression is sure to appear to be false, as not many of the countries can be proud of such a wealth of plant and animals kingdoms, such a variety of landscapes and climatic zones. The nature of Turkmenistan is rich in tens of thousands of types of flora and fauna. Many of these types are unique and can be seen only here on the Turkmen land. The nature of Turkmenistan is also a mighty source of material resources for the people living here. With every step in the desert one can feel the mighty breath of life. The nature of sands is not always favorable to man. But it is the living nature, existing in accordance with the laws that have been laid down for millennia. The conditions of hot dry climate, caused the development of unique forms of plants able to get at life-giving moisture from the great depths, to stand still in its: development for the period of severe withering summer heat and to bloom wild and unstoppable in the period of short life-giving spring.
In the common ecological system of desert, thanks to the sharp biological balance many representatives of the animal world feel fine as well. All these representative of the fauna beginning from «the crocodile of the sands — varan — and ending with «the ship of desert» — camel — are unique mainly because they possess the surprising ability to acclimatization to the extreme climatic peculiarities.
And skilful and careful handling of life potential of the desert can also bring substantial profit to man. The desert ranges only allow grazing of multi thousand herds of sheep and camels.
But most brightly and completely the Nature of Turkmenistan reveals its colorful variety, in those climatic zones, where there is an abundance of water, the basis of life. Vibrant blooming of life rains in the cool foothills, in the river valleys, in the boundaries between different natural zones.
But even today in the remotest places, hidden from accidental glances one can come across a porcupine, a «red cat», a hyena and even a leopard.
Eight state preserves of Turkmenistan cover more than half a million hectares of dry lands and about 200000 hectares of bodies of water. On their territory more than 3000 types of plants, 50 types of fish and 279 types of animals are under guard. The forests occupying more than 3 million hectares are also guarded by government.
Mountain landscapes are not less characteristic of Turkmenistan than those of desert. This is not surprising. In the south, east and west of Turkmenistan there are mountain masses of the Kopet-Dag, Koyten-Dag, Balkans. If one goes the zigzagging mountain road, every new turn, every new step presents him with inimitable beauty of canyons, slopes of mountains, alpine meadows, clean rivers and waterfalls. The mountain regions of Turkmenistan are also an invaluable store-house of mineral resources.
According to the calculations of scientists the plant world of Turkmenistan includes more than 2600 types of wild plants. The animal world of Turkmenistan is represented by not less than 700 types of vertebrate and 10000 types invertebrate animals. The nature of Turkmenistan is rich in medicine herbs. 344 types of medicine herbs grow only in the territory of Turkmenistan.
But not of less value are the unique healing springs, salty lakes rich in minerals and many other manifestations of multifarious nature. As for recreational potential Turkmenistan can be rightfully considered to be one of the leading in the world.
One cannot know nature of Turkmenistan not having visited the Caspian sea-shore. The Caspian sea is the largest in the world self-contained salty sea (lake) which has no connection with the world's oceans. On the territory of the Caspian Sea only one can come across flamingo, pelicans and many other birds that are on the list of endangered species (the Red Book). Special attention of the nature protection service is raid to preserving the populations of valuable sturgeon fishes.

Ecke Ajans, Turkmenistan, 1995, Ankara, Turkey, p. 39-45

Atayev,M. Turkmenistan: Eight Years of Idependent Development.1999. 10-24