living labs

The Ükök catchment in Kryrgyzstan

Location of the Ükök catchment in the boundaries of Kyrgyzstan (DEM: GTOPO30, 1x1 km)
Location of the Ükök catchment in the boundaries of Kyrgyzstan (DEM: GTOPO30, 1x1 km)
Image Credit: F. Becker, 2014

The Ükök river catchment is the watershed of the project "Integrated Watershed Management for Central Asia". It is located in the Basin of Kochkor and the bordering mountains of the Terskej Ala-Too in Kyrgyzstan. The region is one of the poorest areas in the country.

The climate of the catchment is continental with a sharp orographic gradient; annual precipitation totals from 250 mm in the basin to more than 600 mm in the headwater areas. In summer, evapotranspiration exceeds precipitation. That's why irrigation in necessary for farming.

The irrigation system was established during soviet times and has now – after the collapse of the Soviet Union – a strong need for maintenance and good management.

Most of the land in the Ükök catchment has been traditionally used for animal husbandry. Before the incorporation of the area in the Russian Empire a nomadic husbandry system was typical in the area. Since 1930 transhumance is practiced. The animals are kept around the villages in winter. In spring they move up to the high mountain pastures (Jailoo), were they graze during summer. During autumn they move down to the village again. Due to the fact that animal products are the main source of income in the area, sustainable pasturing is important in the Ükök catchment.

A detailed geographical introduction to the Ükök catchment can be found here.