The last few days, I talked to quite a few people. The chief architect -simultaneously head of planning- received us with mint tea, and he and a colleague explained how they decide which neighborhoods will be renovated, i.e., demolished and rebuilt in higher densities, according to his design. Some of the designs looked like medieval caravanserais, and seemingly, this is what people ask for.
Thursday, I went back to Ashirmat, the ex- Kolkhoz near the Turkmen border, you remember, and to Kushkypir, the district center. Talking to the irrigation engineers in Kushkypir, it dawned on me 1) that indeed this whole area is a product of irrigation design, not of spatial planning, and 2) that, in this situation the Soviets had remarkably little interest in integrated planning of all the rest, even if it would have been easy, even with the organizations in place that could have done it. Later, in Ashirmat, a small place by any account, it turned out that this integration improved somewhat (water experts are brought in for large constructions projects). New regulations aim to turn villages into mini-cities, with apartments in the center, and real estate developers redesigning large chunks of the village core at once. Few examples are actually built yet, so we will have to wait for the results, the effects on water, sewer, roads and so forth.
A village elder there told us about the lake (see picture), according to him thousands of years old, an assertion that might seem trivial in many places, but in a place where the whole landscape is not older than 50 years, it isn't. Most lakes in the region are very young, the by-product of drainage design (no irrigation without drainage here). This one is now connected to the drainage network, but is mostly natural. It rarely dries up, and used to be called Salty lake. He remembered how people used the surrounding wetland for salt extraction. The early American map earlier on this blog, revealed salt marshes, before the Kolkhoz came, and apparently this is one of those. A colleague at the institute told me that in the Bukhara area, to the east, some people still get their salt from the marshes.
[Over the wetland and the rice fields: clouds of dragonflies. Many beautiful birds. In the rice paddies numerous wading avocets. On telephone wires: bluish rollers and greenish bee-eaters. High in the air a few birds of prey I could not identify]