The Murghab (or Murgap, Marghab, Murqab) is the second largest river in Turkmenistan after the Amu Darya. It originates in the Paropamis Mountains in Ghor Province, flows through the Marghab district of central Afghanistan, and then flows northwest towards the Mary oasis in the Karakum Desert. Near Mary the river flows into the Karakum Canal, which drains water from the Amu Darya.
The total length of the Murghab River is 978 km (350 km in Turkmenistan), the basin area is about 46,880 square kilometres. The Tashkepri, Kazyklybent, Kolkhozbent, Iolotan, Hindu Kush and Saryyazin reservoirs are located on the river. A 2021 study shows that in the near future (by 2040), Murghab’s flow could be reduced by as much as a third due to climate change.
The waters of the Murghab River have been used for irrigation since ancient times. Currently, a significant part of the river’s waters is used for agricultural needs. In its lower reaches, the Murghab, since the construction of the Karakum Canal, flows through a network of artificial canals and forms a network of lakes. In the past, Murghab flowed into the Amu Darya river.
The Murghab River is home to many different species of fish, some of which are local, some were specially introduced, and some entered the river by accident through the canal system. Native species include striped fast grass, common carp, catfish, crucian carp and schizothorax. To combat algae in Murghab and the Karakum Canal, silver carp and grass carp were acclimatized. To destroy the larvae of the malaria mosquito, mosquito fish were introduced into Murghab.
There are several rivers in Asia called Murghab. For example, there are rivers with this name in Iran and Tajikistan. The name Murghab originates from Persian/Pashto word مرغاب, Morqâb.