Financing Rural WSS in Tajikistan/country background


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Financing Rural WSS in Tajikistan (Country background / Socio-Economic context / Water-Policy context / The State of the Water-Sector / The FEASIBLE-model / Applying the FEASIBLE-model / Baseline Scenarios / Bibliography) | Kyrgyzstan WSS Financing NPD (First Steering Group Report / ...)


Political context

Tajikistan is a land-locked, mountainous low income country in Central Asia, occupying a geopolitically sensitive location with borders to Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Tajikistan became independent in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union, and it is now in the process of strengthening its democracy and transitioning to a free market economy after its 1992-97 civil war. Since November 19, 1992 Emomali RAHMON holds the position of the head of state and Supreme Assembly Chairman, since November 6, 1994 he is the President of Tajikistan. From 1992 to 1997 internal fighting ensued between old-guard regionally based ruling elites and disenfranchised regions, democratic liberal reformists, and Islamists loosely organized in a United Tajik Opposition (UTO). The height of hostilities occurred between 1992 and 1993. By 1997, the predominantly Kulyabi-led Tajik Government and the UTO had negotiated a power-sharing peace accord and implemented it by 2000 (US Department of State, December 2007). The country’s economy began to recover in 1998 and onwards, which allowed the Government to focus on administering the country and implementing the economic and social development agenda. Nevertheless, legacy of the civil war in Tajikistan includes a complex political economy that has constrained public sector performance, private sector investment, and social development (World Bank, 2007). Tajikistan is characterized by ongoing degradation of land resources and limited, availability of clean water, a slowly stabilizing economy, enormous social problems and insufficient state capacity relying on external assistance (UNEP, 2007, p.16). Attention by the international community in the wake of the war in Afghanistan has brought increased economic development and security assistance to Tajikistan, which could create jobs and increase stability in the long term. However, Tajikistan is still in the early stages of seeking World Trade Organization membership and has joined NATO's Partnership for Peace (CIA, 15th of July 2008). Modelled on the Presidential form of governance, Tajikistan has three branches of state power: legislative, executive and judicial. The legislative body is made up of a two-chambered Majlisi Oli (Parliament), which consists of the Majlisi Namoyandagon, a professional chamber, which functions on a regular basis, and the Majlisi Milli, which meets less frequently and functions on a convening basis (UNDP Tajikistan, 24th of July 2008). In the political arena, in last 12 – 18 months difficulties started to emerge that might impact the development of the country in the immediate future. The successful pacification process through assuring the buy-in of most major players and spreading the central government’s control over the country’s geographically, ethnically and politically fragmented territory, back then helpful for peace and stability in the aftermath of conflict, created troublesome political dynamics. The virtual absence of political participation and competition, the lack of transparency and accountability in the political system, and an increasing concentration of political and economic power in a limited group of individuals closely associated with or related to the President in the longer term may well lead to dissatisfaction and disenchantment at the base as people lose faith in the one-time popular leadership (Linn, 1st of June 2008). Recent unsanctioned peaceful demonstration in Khorog, capital of Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region, triggered by socioeconomic dissatisfaction might be a proof for urgently needed reforms (Oxford Analytica, 21st of July 2008).

Geography and population

The country has an area of 143,100 square kilometers. More than half of Tajikistan’s territory lies at a height of at least 3000m above sea level and includes some of Central Asia's highest peaks. Pamir and Alay mountains dominate landscape. Frequent earthquakes of varying degrees and natural disasters are reported. The capital is Dushanbe. Other important parts are the western Ferghana valley in the north and Kofarnihon and Vakhsh Valleys in southwest CIA, 15th of July 2008). Administratively the country is divided into four regions: Gorno–Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast in the east, Khatlon Oblast in the south, Leninabad Oblast in the north and the Regions of Republican Subordination in the centre (UNDP Tajikistan).

Tajikistan has a mid-latitude continental climate with hot summers and mild winters. Local climate in the Pamir Mountains is semiarid to polar (US Department of State, 2007). Tajikistan has a population 7,181,400 (October, 2007, est.), its population growth rate lies around 2.19% (2006 est.). Ethnic groups in the country include Tajik (74%), Uzbek (23%), Russian and others (3 %.). In 2003 95% of the population was estimated to belong the Sunni Muslim confession, 3% were estimated to be Shi’a Muslim and the remaining 2% to other confessions. Tajikistan’s official language is Tajik, however Russian is widely used in government and business. In the rural parts, which make 77% of the countries territory, the population speaks mostly Tajik. According to official statistics, literacy within population is 88%. Though, the Tajik system is still struggling through a period of decline since independence. Life expectancy among men is 61.68, while for women it is 67.59 years. The infant mortality rate is 110.76 deaths per 1000 live births. Tajikistan has a work force of 3.301 million people, according to 2003 estimates (US Department of State, December 2007).

Central Asian Water issues

Central Asia, encompassing the southern provinces of the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, is rich in natural resources, most still untapped. In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, large quantities of water are stored in the mountain glaciers. The region suffers from significant ecological disasters and the legacy of the past. Under Soviet Union rule, large-scale irrigation systems were built to supply water to cotton crops, contributing to the degradation of the Aral Sea and Caspian Sea. The consequences of colonial authoritarianism, forced secularization, central economic planning and the establishment of artificial borders in the region include severe ecological degradation, forced migration of ethnic groups, and interethnic competition for land, water and other increasingly scarce resources (UNEP et al., 2003, p.4). In contrast to some other Central Asian countries, scarce water resources are not a general concern due the mountainous profile of Tajikistan. However, there is a high susceptibility to natural disasters due to a very high dependency on hydropower an agricultural production. The mountainous profile of Tajikistan ensures that water quantity is not a major concern in this country. But as an upstream country, Tajikistan has responsibilities towards lower level countries. The issue of water pollution has also gained a transboundary dimension by becoming a point of contention between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Water quality is also an issue in other transboundary contexts, e.g. at the Syr Darya and Zeravshan rivers (ibid. pp.16 – 17). The growing water demand mainly for irrigation (Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) and high levels of water pollution (Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) are key environmental issues threatening human development and security in the region. Water-related problems have been found to have the most obvious but often only indirect impacts on security. Even though there is no general scarcity of water resources in terms of total water availability at the regional level, water is not evenly distributed. Huge amounts of water are stored in the mountains in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. But even in these countries, high demand for water resources, mainly for irrigation, and water losses due to inappropriate water infrastructure impose significant constraints upon water supply. Allocation of crucial water supplies has repeatedly led to tensions. Transboundary cooperation on the allocation of water has been the subject of various regional and bilateral negotiation processes and projects in recent years, often resulting in formal agreements, joint commissions and the development of policies and measures. Since river basins are shared between numerous states, water pollution is necessarily a regional concern (ibid. p.30).

Ferghana Valley

The Ferghana valley is the most fertile and densely populated area in Central Asia that also encompasses one of the region’s key water resources. In principal the mountain areas of Central Asia are rich in water. However, the situation of annual per capita water supply varies a great deal between up and downstream countries, and between regions inside individual countries. The annual natural internal renewable water resources per capita are of the order of 11,000 cubic meters in Tajikistan (UNEP et al., 2005, p. 22). Hence any water scarcity in the region is not question of quantity but of distribution and use. Research points out that the Ferghana area affected by salinization and waterlogging has increased over the last decade from roughly 25% to 50% of all irrigated land. At present 31% of irrigated land has a water table within 2 metres of the surface and 28% of irrigated land suffers from moderate to high salinity levels, resulting in a 20%-30% drop in crop yield. Soil contamination linked to irrigated agriculture (contamination by pesticides, nitrates and strontium) is an issue in the whole central part of the Ferghana valley where the highest soil salinity is observed. However, the problems of secondary salinization and agriculture-related pollution are not new, being clearly linked to the spread of irrigation systems and the construction of large dams along the Syr-Darya and Amu-Darya in 1965 – 1985 (ibid. p. 24). Moreover because of high density of waterways crossing Ferghana valley, the area is at risk from pollution caused by spills and other accidents related to industrial activities or dangerous wastes (ibid. p.26). The border regions between Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are particularly prone to water availability and access to water problems, the irrigation infrastructure having been built when the borders were only administrative divisions. Disputes over availability in water, though local in scale, reach beyond the area. In addition Water allocation disputes easily take on an ethnic dimension too, because they may quickly mobilize communities through networks rooted in ethnic solidarity (ibid. p. 28).

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