Irtysh River

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The Irtysh River (Russian: Иртыш ; Kazakh: Ertis / Ертiс ; Tatar Cyrillic: Иртеш, Latin: İrteş ; Chinese: É'ěrqísī hé / 额尔齐斯河) ; Mongolian: Эрчис ; is a river in Siberia and is the chief tributary of the Ob River. Its name means White River. Irtysh's main affluent is the Tobol River. The Ob-Irtysh forms a major basin in Asia, encompassing most of Western Siberia and the Altay Mountains.



From its origins as the Kara-Irtysh (Black Irtysh) in the Mongolian Altay mountains in Xinjiang, China, the Irtysh flows north-west through Lake Zaysan in Kazakhstan, meeting the Ishim and Tobol rivers before merging with the Ob near Khanty-Mansiysk in western Siberia, Russia after 4,248 kilometres (2,640 mi).

Economic use

Tankers and passenger and freight boats navigate the river between April and October, when it does not freeze over. Omsk, home to the headquarters of the state-owned Irtysh River Shipping Company, functions as as the largest river-port in Western Siberia. Major hydroelectric plants at Ust-Kamenogorsk and Bakhtarminsk use the Irtysh near the Kazakhstan-Chinese border. The lock that allows river traffic to by-pass the dam at Ust-Kemenogorsk is the world's deepest, with a drop of 42 metres.[1]

Some of the Northern river reversal proposals, widely discussed in the 1960s and 1970s, would see the direction of the Irtysh flow reversed, so that it could supply water to central Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. While these gigantic water management schemes were not implemented, a smaller Irtysh-Karaganda irrigation canal (Russian: Канал Иртыш — Караганда) was built between 1962 and 1974 to supply water to the dry Kazakh steppes and to one of the country's main industrial centers, Karaganda. In 2002, pipelines were constructed to supply water from the canal to the Ishim River and Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.

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