Amu Darya river
The Amu Darya is the second-longest river in Central Asia (after the Syr Darya) but at the same time the largest river in terms of water volume. In ancient times the river was called Oxus, the name you may find in many books. It flows in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The name derives from the city of Amul (today Turkmenabad in Turkmenistan) and the Uzbek word “daryo” meaning river.
The Amu Darya is about 1,400 km long and is formed by the confluence of the two spring rivers Pyandj and Vakhsh, which carry melted snow and glacier water. Three significant right tributaries (Kafirnigan, Surkhandarya and Sherabad) and a left tributary (Kunduz) flow into the Amu Darya in the middle stream. Apart from that, there are no more important tributaries.
During the reign of Peter the Great, who was interested in trade with Asia and India via the Amu Darya. The first maps were drawn, in which the river flowed into the Aral Sea, however, the systematic study of the river did not begin until the end of the 19th century.
Since most areas with favourable natural and economic conditions for irrigated agriculture are far from the waterway (the Karshi steppe, the Bukhara region and the southern part of Turkmenistan), a unique canal system for water supply was established during the Soviet era.
The intensive use of river water generated many jobs in agriculture, especially in fruit and vegetable growing. However, as a result, the amount of water downstream steadily decreased while the evaporation of the water was accelerated. The Amu Darya no longer flows into the Aral Sea but seeps away into the desert.
Syr Darya river
The Syr Darya is the longest river of Central Asia with a length of approx. 2,980km and the second largest river in Central Asia in terms of water amount.
The name Syr Darya in translation means “Secret River”. The river used to be known as Yaksart. It was believed that another hidden river flowed under the visible riverbed in ancient times. People associate the river with the historical secrets, which the river has kept over the centuries.
The Syr Darya river is the junction of the Naryn River (from the central Tien Shan Mountains) and the Karadarya River (from the Fergana Mountains). It flows through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and feeds the whole Fergana Valley, which is very fertile.
In former times, the Syr Darya had several tributaries. None of them flows into the main river anymore due to water withdrawal for irrigation but happens in exceptional cases (particularly in rainy years).