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|Countries||Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan|
|- right||Naryn, Chirciq, Arys, Chu, Sarysu|
|Cities||Khujand, TJ, Tashkent, UZ, Turkestan, KZ, Kyzylorda, KZ|
|Source||Confluence of Naryn and Kara Darya|
|- location||Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan|
|- elevation||400 m (1,312 ft)|
|- location||Kazaly, Kazakhstan|
|- elevation||42 m (138 ft)|
|Length||2,212 km (1,374 mi)|
|Basin||402,760 km2 (155,507 sq mi)|
|- average||1,180 m3/s (41,671 cu ft/s) |
The Syr Darya[pronunciation?] (Persian: سيردريا; Tajik: Сирдарё; Kazakh: Сырдария ; Arabic: سيحون; Uzbek: Sirdaryo), also transliterated Syrdarya or Sirdaryo, is a river in Central Asia, sometimes known as the Jaxartes or Yaxartes[pronunciation?] from its Ancient Greek name Ἰαξάρτης. The Greek name is derived from Old Persian, Yakhsha Arta ("Great Pearly"), a reference to the color of the river's water. In medieval Arabic writings, the river is uniformly known as Sayhoun (سيحون) - and is considered one of the four rivers whose common source lies in Paradise (the other three being Amu Darya/Jayhoun, the Nile, and the Euphrates).
The name, which comes from Persian and has long been used in the East, is a relatively recent one in western writings; prior to the early 20th century, the river was known by various versions of its ancient Greek name. Following the Battle of Jaxartes the river marked the northernmost limit of Alexander the Great's conquests. Greek historians have claimed that here in 329 BC he founded the city Alexandria Eschate (literally, "Alexandria the Furthest") as a permanent garrison. The city is now known as Khujand. In reality, he had just renamed (and possibly, expanded) the city of Cyropolis founded by king Cyrus the Great of Persia, more than two centuries earlier.
The river rises in two headstreams in the Tian Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan and eastern Uzbekistan—the Naryn River and the Kara Darya which come together in the Uzbek part of the Fergana Valley—and flows for some 2,212 kilometres (1,374 mi) west and north-west through Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan to the remains of the Aral Sea. The Syr Darya drains an area of over 800,000 square kilometres (310,000 sq mi), but no more than 200,000 square kilometres (77,000 sq mi) actually contribute significant flow to the river. Its annual flow is a very modest  37 cubic kilometres (30,000,000 acre·ft) per year—half that of its sister river, the Amu Darya.
An extensive system of canals, many built in the 18th century by the Uzbek Khanate of Kokand, spans the regions the river flows through. Massive expansion of irrigation canals during the Soviet period, to water cotton fields, caused ecological damage to the area, with the river drying up long before reaching the Aral Sea which, as a result, has shrunk to a small remnant of its former size. With millions of people now settled in these cotton areas, it is not clear how the situation can be rectified.
Syr Darya Waterway
An open oceanic seaway between the Sea of Azov, the Caspian Sea and the Eurasia Canal would allow for greater evaporation and snowpack. The increased water supply would allow the Aral Sea to refill and be connected perhaps all the way up the Syr Darya to Isfara. Not only would this support farming, but also allow for international shipping (through the Black Sea), as well as use of naval vessels if required.[verification needed]
- The introductory chapters of Yāqūt's Muʿjam al-buldān, by Yāqūt ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥamawī, Page 30
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