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Narynkum desert swallows settlement

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By Lyazzat Karazhanova

Unprecedented sand movement by wind action has nearly buried houses in the settlement of Issatai, which is a home to 300 families.

Once you drive off Atyrau-Astrakhan highway near Issatai you will see the famous Naryn-Kum sands.

In the village with a population of 1,500, people now have to walk zigzagging along dunes in which some houses have sunk to the roof.

Barriers have proven ineffective, as sands soon or later powder everything up.

 "Pleasant feeling light-yellow sand flowing over your feet is very dangerous in fact. You have come here on a windless day and see no obvious danger. If you see what happens here on stormy days, you will likely be shocked. We have got used to it. Despite harsh nature here, we have no wish to leave these places, we love them. Sand hurricanes are so strong sometimes that they make us hide in houses, as it is impossible to open eyes and even hard to breath in the storm," says a local man Mendibek Dauletov.

Last year a house was whelmed over the top and all villagers in one effort dug it out. And the case repeated recently.

Sands are now to swallow another 30 housesSands are now to swallow another 30 houses

Another villager seeking salvation from the nature's action disassembled and assembled his house on a new place as much as three times. However, he ended in a makeshift hut where he is still living.

Some others just left their homes - there is a great number of chimneys standing out of hills.

Gas and water pipes are under sand too. If a leak occurs, it is almost impossible to find where it is. Overhead power cables are within a hand's reach atop a dune.

Some cables are within a hand's reachSome cables are within a hand's reach

"They need to plant more saksaul [haloxylon, a desert plant], it helps stop the advance of sands," says Madi Utegaliyev, acting district akim. 

"The problem is saksaul hardly adapts to the soil here. It needs much care and water, but the only source - Zaburun Channel - has been buried too. So it is not only hard to organize water supply but even find what to drink for domestic animals," he added.

The official said people are not protesting, nobody is demanding relocation or asking new houses from the government.

"We will help them obtain sponsorship aid. At least, some may take bank loan and build houses in other settlements," the civil servant concluded.



June 20 2013, 11:31

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