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This story is about how three men have saved Zhumay Lake in northeastern Kazakistan from disappearing.
The lake it’s part of a group of water bodies located 90 km southwest of Astana.
This lacustrine system, formed by 6 major lakes (Zhumay is one of them) hosts approximately 23.000 birds belonging to 32 species. The most common species is the Anser albriforns goose but also swans, cormorant and pelicans can be found.
In 2009 a severe dry season began which has completely drained Zhumay Lake in three years.

Satellite photo of the original lake up and of the lake drained down

Fishes have lost their water and have died, migratory birds have lost a stop of their trip and haven’t shown up anymore.

Due to his function the lake it’s an IBA area, which means a very important ornithological area also for its biodiversity. 

Ruslan Urazaliyev and Timur Iskakov have decided to do something in order to save it.

Their idea was to bring back water. Unfortunately no river plumps this lake, which is mostly made from winter snow and rains. 

Furthermore, the grass in the steppe it’s only 30 cm high, that’s why even if it snows a lot, the wind blows it away. 

How to do it then?

They remembered a method used by farmers to store the snow and use it in summer to water fields, therefore they involved a local farmer, Kyrykbay Tobanov, and his tractor.

Funds were missing, which have been put by Global Environment Facility: an international organization, that has covered just the pocket expenses (gas oil, food, conversion of the tractor into a snow plow).

In December 2012, those three men started to work.

The tractor has been manually converted into a snow plow in its rear, forcing the driver to drive always in reverse.

Passing through the drained lake, now covered with snow, snow walls were made. 

Every new snowfall, the driver passed through the aisle again moving the snow on the sides in order to increase the height of the wall. 

The snow wall has protected the fresh snow from the wind avoiding its dispersion. 

This has been done for 4 months, until they got walls 170cm high, that have gradually filled with snow. 

After the first winter the lake was filled with 1m of water and had a good amount of water even under the ground. 

In winter 2013 the operation was repeated, so that by summer the lake had 2m of water, which is its natural depth. 

Migratory birds have come back, but being carnivorous, they could use the lake just to rest. 

It was necessary to repopulate the lake with fishes. 

Therefore in 2016 fishermen become active and started to take fishes from surrounding lakes to Zhumay. 

Thinking of the importance of this work done by just three men with a tractor, I can’t help to see them like heroes, I admire the most Ruslan Urazaliyev, a young biotechnologist, PHD in Conservation Biology and Ornithologist for Acbk, an association for the preservation of biodiversity of Kazakistan. 

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