Turkmenistan is the Central Asian nation most associated with vast deserts. It’s also a place that is dealing with the consequences of the Aral Sea disaster. But these facts aren’t deterring Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov from moving ahead with a scheme to create a giant artificial lake in the middle of nowhere.
The idea for the would-be Altyn Asyr (“Golden Era”) Lake – also known as Lake Turkmen – dates back to 2000, a brainchild of then-president Saparmurat Niyazov. In 2009, Berdymukhamedov inaugurated the first phase of the multi-billion-dollar project, opening a sluice and promising to turn the Karakum Desert into a “blossoming oasis.” Berdymukhamedov again toured the site last month, “assessing Lake Turkmen’s positive impact on the desert” and vowing to complete the project, the state-run TDH news agency reported.
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Murat Sadykov is the pseudonym for a journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.