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Physical-geographic characteristics of the region

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Kyrgyz Republic

The climate is continental: cold winters and hot summers with big local deflections depending on the altitude. In July the average temperature in the lowlands ranges from +17 to +27 degrees C (the highest temperature can be more than +40 degrees C). At the altitude of 3000 m above the sea level the temperature can only be about +10 degrees C. In winter there are frosts in all regions. The highest level of precipitation is in the mountains, mainly in the form of snow, with maximum rate of 1000 mm on the slopes of the Fergana valley. The precipitation in the Talas oblast ranges from 250 to 500 mm. In the Issyk-Kul oblast - from 200 mm in the west to 600 mm in the east. It usually rains and snows in autumn, winter and spring, sometimes it snows in May. The summer is usually dry. The potential annual evaporation rate changes from 200 mm at high altitude (more than 300 m) to 1600 mm in the low places (less than 500 m). The evaporation in the irrigated regions is from 1200 to 1600 mm greatly exceeding the average rate of precipitation.

Source: GRID-Arendal

Water resources

Kyrgyzstan has huge resources of ground and surface waters, the significant stocks of which are in the rivers, eternal ice-houses and snow massifs.

Annual average volume water of total water resources makes up 2,458 km3 including 50 of surface river runoff, 13 km3 of potential reserves of ground water, 1,745 km3 of lake water, 650 km3 of glaciers.


In total there are 8,208 glaciers of different sizes on the territory of Kyrgyzstan. The area of icing is 8,169.4 km2, or 4.2% of the republic territory. The main glacier centres are located in the extreme east, in the basin of the river Sary-Jaz where the largest plain glaciers are located and in the south of the Zailiy ridge

The supply of fresh water preserved in the mountain glaciers is 650 billion m3, which exceeds 12 times rivers flow resources in the country.

Trend to climate warming leads to stable intensive reduction of glacier surfaces. According to forecast, by 2025 the territories of glaciers will be reduced by 30-40% resulting in water volume diminish by 25-35%.


There are 1923 lakes in Kyrgyzstan, the total area of water surface is 6836 km2. The biggest lakes of Kyrgyzstan are Issyk-Kyl (the area of water surface is 6236 km2), Son-Kul (the area is 275 km2), Chatyr-Kul(the area is 175 km2).

There is a significant amount of lakes and other natural reservoirs with common area about 6697 km2 and with common annual volume of water about 1745 billion m2 on the territory of the republic. It is necessary to note that 84% of lakes are located at heights 3000-4000 m in regions of tectonic origin. Potential annual stock of ground water is 13 billion m2, of ice-houses about 650 billion m2


The longest river is Narin - 535 km length, river Chatkar is 205 km length and the river Chu is 221 km length, annual flow is 5.83 km3 The river Talas and the river Assaa is 2 km3 flow per year. More than 3500 rivers flowing on the territory of the republic supply water to the neighbouring states: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and also Sinjan-Uigur autonomous region of China.


The bogs in the republic are 0.5% of the territory in the places where ground water is near the surface ( Issyk-Kul lake, Son-Kul lake, river Chui valley, Talas, Narin).

Water reservoirs

There are 13 artificial reservoirs with the total area 378.2 km3 and volume of water 23.41 km3 in Kyrgyzstan. About 75% of the river runoff goes out from the republic to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and the Sintzyan-Uigur region of China. More than 10 large reservoirs for irrigation were built to regulate runoff of transnational rivers the Chui, Talas, Naryn, Ak-Bura, Kara-Darya. Damage from agricultural yield shortage on the territories occupied by reservoirs is estimated 11.3 million US dollars.

Pollution and quality of water

In accordance with data of the State Agency on Hydrometeorology the most polluted rivers are the Chui and SyrDarya. The chemical composition of these rivers is impacted by polluted industrial and agricultural waste, water from fields full of decay products of mineral fertilisers and pesticides, and also domestic activity of the population. In such rivers as the Chui, Alamedin, Chon-Kemyn, Issyk-Ata, Kechy-Kemyn, Naryn, Akbura, KaraDarya, Tar, Yassy, Kurshab and others, increased content of ammonium nitrogen and nitrite combinations of copper, zinc, oil and oil products, organic and other harmful substances and residual quantities of pesticides of DDT and HCCH is observed regularly.

High concentrations of copper and zinc combinations, oil and oil products, nitrites are observed in the rivers the Tup, Djergalan, Djety-Ogyz, Cholpon-Ata, Chon-Aksuu and others.

Serious situation with ground water contamination by nitrates is taken place in the region of Orto-Alysh water intake, which provides 60% of drinking water for the capital of the republic. Increased nitrate concentration is observed at the depth of 150 m. The cause of this contamination is location of farms and cattle breeding, development of irrigated agriculture, poor sanitary of settlements, lack of water supply system and canalisation.

The greatest alarm causes industrial pollution of water resources. Annually, 900-1150 million m3 of various drains is removed in surface water objects of the republic, from them 301-635 million m3 of wastewaters passes biological, physio-chemical or mechanical clearing. 0.42-0.75 million m3 per year of dangerously polluted wastewaters are faulted without clearing in open water reservoir and channels. The contents of harmful substances in them in tens of times exceeds the established norms.

Water consumption

On the basis of the Intergovernmental Agreement of the countries of Central Asia, the republic may use 24% of volume of a river source from an annual source 50 billion m3 (i.e. 12 billion m3). The significant part (about 23%) of return water is lost during their use. The reasons for unsatisfactory technical condition of irrigation and water-distributive systems are, wear of equipment, application of imperfect methods for watering, and an absence of water-saving technologies. In the last years, the stable tendency of growth of unproductive losses of water is marked, and 90% of them are losses in irrigation. Water in the republic is used for household, industrial and agricultural use. The consumption of water for agricultural irrigation is 88% of total use (about 12% of water is for household and industrial consumption).

Land resources

The territory of Kyrgyzstan in administrative units is 1994.5 thousand hectares.

The total land area of the republic was distributed as follows.

  • Commodity producers of agricultural products use 11647.1 thousand hectares.
  • 5719.8 thousand hectares is in reserves, including redistribution stock - 879.0 thousand hectares. 1107.1 thousand hectares. are under the control of agricultural organisations.
  • Industrial, transport, communications, defence and other enterprises use 888.8 thousand hectares.
  • 137.4 thousand hectares are under residential settlements.
  • 145.4 thousand hectares are under the authority of enterprises and organisation of nature use, recreation, sanitation and historic cultural purposes.
  • 93.7 thousand hectares are under hydro-technical constructions.

In general, about 60% of land is unexploited, due to loss of plough layer, 6 % due to soil salinisation. Under such conditions agricultural crop capacity directly depends on applied fertiliser quantity. According to soil inventory (1991-1994) 8 thousand hectares of irrigative lands were put out of intensive turnover.

There are some data about transformation of 26.0 thousand hectares of irrigative lands and 36.5 thousand hectares of plough lands into unexploited arable lands because of worsening their land-reclamation state.

At present 5302.1 thousand hectares, including plough lands 968 thousand hectares, pastures 4544.8 thousand hectares and hay mowing 87.1 thousand hectares are subject to erosion.

The factors of impact on soil cover are cattle grazing and agriculture. Urbanisation of territories, construction of transport systems, hydro-engineering structures and mining enterprises completely destroy a soil cover. The deterioration of a state of used land resources occurs also owing to erosion and salinisation of soil irrigated by a wrong way.

There are all kinds of soil erosions on the territory of the republic: pasture, wind, water, irrigation surface, and ravine erosion.

Decrease of the main humus fertility index is going on due to erosion removal and absence of necessary doses of organic fertilisers. Removal of humus by plants from arable horizon has made up from 20 up to 45%, and its content does not exceed 2.5%. In these conditions the productivity of agricultural plants directly depends on amount of brought mineral fertilisers. Now, 5302.1 thousand hectares of arable lands are exposed by erosion, including about 968 thousand hectares of arable lands, about 4544.8 thousand hectares of pasture, and about 87.1 thousand hectares of hay cultivation.

Water erosion, resulting also in pollution of water sources, has captured 54.1 thousand hectares of arable lands. Salting of lands caused by a wrong and irrational irrigation has removed 80 thousand hectares of agricultural arable lands from turn over. Existing in the last years overload of pastures by cattle has resulted in fall of their productivity for 4 times 25-30 years on the average, in their overgrowing by weed and poisonous vegetation, in different kinds of erosion. The degree of pasture degradation may be related to a strong and very strong gradation.

Increase of intensive use of lands into plough land, particularly irrigated, and also reasons stipulated by social economic factors, led to some negative phenomena. Vast arable land areas are in unsatisfactory conditions.

According to land inventory 8 thousand hectares of irrigated lands were taken away from the turnover for the last 5 years.

From 1985 to 1990 areas of salinised lands increased from 28.9 to 89.2 thousand hectares, stony lands -from 239.9 to 3808.8 thousand hectares, deflation lands- from 616.2 to 5475.3 thousand hectares.

A crop shortage due to various degrees of soil degradation was 20-80% for herbs and 15-20 % for cereals.

Unsatisfactory quality of projecting and building of irrigation constructions and networks, over- watering of lands caused irrigative erosion on the territory of 74.2 thousand hectares of plough lands. Neglect of anti-erosion principles of territory organisation when average decrease size of one agricultural land use decreased 43 times, makes the process of land erosion endless.

At present 5302.1 thousand hectares or 51 % of arable lands are subject to erosions, including ploughed lands 968 thousand hectares, pastures 4544.8 thousand hectares and hay - mowing - 81.7 thousand hectares.

Urbanisation of territories, building of transport systems, hydro-technical constructions and mining enterprises completely destroy thousands of topsoil. Scantiness of arable lands, worsening of melioration conditions of arable lands combined with population increase led to a stable tendency of productive area reduction per capita. With increase of population and systematic withdrawal of lands for non-agricultural needs, the area of plough lands in the republic decreased from 0.43 to 0.3 hectares including irrigated lands - from 0.27 to 0.195 hectares. By 2030 it will be 0.18 and 0.1 hectares per capita respectively Overloading pastures led to decrease of their crop capacity for 25-30 years on average 4 times, over- growing with weeds and poisonous vegetation, damage and other kinds of erosion. Anthropogenic influence on pastures is being aggravated by the same natural factors as for topsoil.

As a result, the pastures of the Chui Valley, pre-mountain and plain part of the Fergana valley, Issyk-Kul and the Atbasha depressions, the upstream of the Naryn river, the valley of the Sary-Djaz are evaluated as having a very strong level of degradation.

The level of degradation of considerable part of pastures (25-50 %) of the Terskei and Kungei Ala - Too, the Talas, Fergana and Chatkal ranges, Susamyr and Dzhumgal valleys is also estimated as strong.

At present, due to sharp reduction of cattle on distant and remote pastures the process of natural rehabilitation has begun. However, on pastures located close to residential settlements the process of degradation is going on. Under such conditions the problem of rational use of pastures by means of pasture turnover development and national maintenance of distant cattle breeding arises urgently.