ALMATY REGION – The 13th Ile-Balkhash regatta is expected to finish in the Kapshagai fishing village recreation zone in late May after drawing much needed attention to the region’s environmental issues.
“This traditional aqua-rally is meant to draw the world’s attention to the ecological problems of the region, one of which is the need to preserve the natural diversity of Lake Balkhash,” Mels Eleusizov, the leader of the Tabigat Ecological Union, said at the opening of the regatta at the picturesque Tamgali Tas gorge on May 2.
According to Eleusizov, the water in the Ili River, which provides 80 percent of the water in Lake Balkhash, is declining annually and many sandbars have already formed. The situation must be urgently addressed.
The Ile-Balkhash regatta is being raced in relay mode, comprising sprint races, rafting on the reed delta of the river and a sailboat race. The route includes the Kazakhstan savanna from the Chinese border to Lake Balkhash, as well as the Devil Finger rock and the ancient crossing of Genghis Khan in Kapshagay Gorge, which includes a giant “Singing Dune” located in the Altyn-Emel National Nature Park territory. In only one month, the rowing teams on rafts, kayaks, inflatable boats and catamarans will cover more than 800 kilometres.
It is noteworthy that throughout the race route, apart from competing with each other, the participants were also cleaning the shores of litter and experts from Kazhydromet were taking stock of the condition of the Ili and Balkhash.
Tamgaly Tas also hosted this year the First International Festival of Ecotourism, which included competitions in tourism, beach soccer and volleyball, and the national sports of kokpar, kyz kuu and audaryspak. The event also showcased rock climbers, paragliders, bikers, circus shows and the cooking of the steppe kebab and pilaf.
Near rocks which have ancient Buddhist images, tent and yurt camps were pitched where artisans from several Almaty region districts showcased folk crafts and jewelry making, as well as wood, leather and wool artifacts. Pop stars also performed.