Tajikistan is located in the center of the Eurasian continent in the south-eastern part of Central Asia. Occupying an area of 142.55 thousand km2, the country is bordered on the north by the Kyrgyz Republic (630km), on the east by China (430km), on the south by Afghanistan (1030km), and on the west by Uzbekistan (430km).
Tajikistan is a typical mountainous country by the nature of the surface with altitudes from 300 to 7495 m. 93% of its territory is occupied by mountains belonging to the highest mountain systems of Central Asia – Tien Shan and Pamir. Almost half of the territory of Tajikistan is situated at a height of more than 3000 meters.
Tajikistan could be considered as a model of a planet as there is almost all climatic zones on its small territory with a temperature ranging from +500C to – 600C. Climate of the country is arid with an abundance of heat and significant intra-annual fluctuations of its parameters. The absolute minimum of air temperature – 630Ñ was observed in the Eastern Pamir, but the absolute maximum +470Ñ is observed in the south of the country.
High mountains and a comfortable climate make Tajikistan as a kind of «home» of glaciers and significant water resources, on reserves of which the country ranks first in Central Asia. Mountain and foothill areas of the country are the main zone of flow formation of the Aral Sea basin. Significant water resources flowing through the channels of the mountain rivers and quite large differences of heights create a huge hydropower potential which makes Tajikistan a leader not only in Central Asia but also worldwide.
Oil and gas reserves in Tajikistan are not significant and exploration of coalfields is not organized on industrial scale due to its location in the mountainous remote places.
Lack of fuel and energy resources and reduction of river flow in winter in Tajikistan create a serious shortage of electricity in the autumn-winter period. Obstacles in the import and transit of electricity from other countries make this problem even more acute. This has been going on for about 15 years and strongly affects the socio-economic situation in the country.
In Tajikistan as well as throughout the world climate change is clearly observed. Over the past 65 years in broad valleys the average annual temperature has increased by 0,7-1,200C in mountain areas by 0.1-0.70C and in cities by 1.2-1,900C. Due to the impact of the climate change, the glaciers of the country have changed and according to some estimates have lost 20% of the volume and 30% of the area over the past 50-60 years.
Lack of fuel and energy resources and the use of water as a main source for power generation along with the strategic importance of water for drinking and agriculture make Tajikistan highly vulnerable to water and therefore Government of the country gives the highest priority to solving water issues at all levels.
2. Water resources and their significance for the sustainable development of Tajikistan
Glaciers are basis of water resources of Tajikistan which are estimated at 845km3. Number of glaciers in the country reaches more than14,509 witha total area of glaciations 11,146km2.
There are 947 rivers flowing throughout the country, the total length of which exceeds 28 500km. More than 80% of the flow of the Amu Darya River and 1%of the Syr Darya is formed in Tajikistan. In general it is 64 km3 per year, which is equivalent to 55.4% of the total runoff of the Aral Sea.
More than 46.3km3 of water is concentrated in the lakes, 20 km3 of which is fresh. The country has 10 water reservoirs with a total volume of 15,353km3. They regulate 23.9% of the flow which is formed in the country and 17.5% of the runoff with the inflow from neighboring countries. Groundwater resources of Tajikistan are estimated at 18.7 km3 per year, operational reserves are 2.8km3 per year.
The main consumers of water in Tajikistan are irrigated agriculture, the percentage of which varies from 85 to 90% of the total volume of water used in the country, drinking water supply-up to 2-3%, industry -up to 2-3% and fisheries-to 2%.
Irrigated agriculture is a strategically important direction of the economy. It provides up to 90% of agricultural production constituting up to 20% of national GDP. Thus, irrigated agriculture contributes significantly to the economic development and the achievement of food security. The significance of irrigated agriculture is essential in providing employment for the rural population, which constitutes more than 70% of the population of the country.
Recreational resources of Tajikistan are also important potential for the future development of the country. The country has 162 natural landscaped monuments, more than 200 mineral springs, 18 mud and salt lakes. These resources are effective for investing domestic and foreign capital and in the future maybe one of the main components of the economy.
Water resources play an important role for conservation of ecosystems, especially wetlands, protected areas, the most important of which are “Tigrovaya Balka” and the Tajik National Park which has biospheric value.
Along with the socio-economic benefits, water resources have also a negative impact. Complicated geographical conditions make Tajikistan vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods and mudflows which are repeated up to 25 times per decade. In high-water years in Tajikistan the damage from floods and mudslides reaches hundreds of millions of dollars. Only the damage due to mudslides and floods in 2010 amounted more than 600 million $. This seriously undermines the country’s efforts to achieve the internationally agreed development goals including MDGs.
These major participants of water sector set the framework for national development in Tajikistan. The most priority type of water use in the country is drinking water and sanitation however on importance in ensuring the economic development they are inferior to hydropower.
Tajikistan’s hydropower potential is estimated at 527 billion kWh per year which three times exceeds the existing electricity consumption of the countries of Central Asia. In terms of potential hydropower resources Tajikistan is ranked the eighth in the world, after China, Russia, USA, Brazil, Zaire, India and Canada. On specific indicators of hydropower potential per square kilometer (3696.9 thousand kWh per year/km2) and per capita (65.9 thousand kWh per year/person) the country occupies the first and second place in the world accordingly.
The current use of hydropower resources in Tajikistan allows producing about 17 billion kWh of electricity per year which is about 3 % of the existing capacity. The share of hydropower in the general scheme of fuel and energy balance of the country is more than 98 %. The main consumers of electricity in the country are industry, agriculture, transport and communications, household sector. In principle these sectors are the key in economic development as it is evidenced by the structure of the country’s GDP.
3. Regional and global water policy of Tajikistan
Having considered the huge availability of water resources and hydropower potential for sustainable development of the country, Tajikistan is also conscious of the importance of cooperation with neighboring countries for their effective development and utilization for the benefit of the entire region. For Central Asia, peace, stability and development are completely dependent on the availability of water resources and well-established international cooperation.
On this basis, the policy of Tajikistan since independence aimed at promoting water issues at all levels. Providing proper common understanding of the importance of water resources for sustainable development and the importance of water cooperation as a key factor to achieve this objective always remained the core of this policy.
Following this policy, in 1992 in Tajikistan the Agreement of Cooperation was signed in the sphere of joint management with use and protection of transboundary water resources, and in 1993 Tajikistan became co-founder of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea. It should be noted that Tajikistan is far from the Aral Sea and zone of its crisis influence, but the country has joined the efforts of its neighbors to work together to resist the influence of this humanitarian disaster.
Forming almost 60% of the water flow of the Aral Sea rivers basin, Tajikistan has generously shared water resources with its neighbors. So, out of 64 km3 water formed on its territory, the country uses only 10-11 km3, representing 10% of the total runoff basin and at that time, when the country specific indicators of water volume and irrigated area per capita in Central Asia are the lowest.
Tajikistan, along with other countries in the region annually allocates additional water to support environmental systems of the Aral Sea and Aral Sea region. So, for 1992 and 2010, Aral Sea and the Aral Sea region on an average allocated 12.1 km3 of water per year, which is slightly more than the annual limit of Tajikistan.
In order to provide the population of Central Asia with clean drinking water Tajikistan proposed the creation of the International Consortium for the use of clean fresh water of Sarez Lake. In the face of the water-supply deficit rise observed in the region, the project is certainly met with special attention. It should be noted that this significantly reduces the risk of breakthrough of this lake, which threatens the lives of 6 million people in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Tajikistan has repeatedly put forward the initiative for the joint development of its rich hydropower resources, which could provide the Central Asian region with cheap and ecologically clean electricity.
Global level actions of the country on water are characterized by the desire to attract more attention of the world community to address water issues and improve water cooperation. The country actively promotes water issues on the global agenda and is the initiator of almost all “water” resolutions of UN General Assembly in the past decade.
It was at the suggestion of the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon that the International Year of Freshwater, 2003, International Decade for Action “Water for Life”, 2005-2015 and the International Year of Water Cooperation, 2013 were declared, the concept of which is the idea of giving high priority to water issues and taking appropriate actions to resolve them at all levels. During this period, Dushanbe city repeatedly provided a forum to discuss water issues at the global level and to make recommendations and measures for their effective solution.
In this context, special attention is required to initiate the International Year of Water Cooperation caused by the need to develop and strengthen cooperation under conditions of increasing water-supply deficit and growing demand for them. The adoption of the two UN General Assembly resolutions by consensus on this occasion suggests that the international community fully supports this approach and foreshorten water cooperation as an important key to solve these problems.
During this year, the international community has witnessed very interesting and productive events, stormy debates and discussions of a wide range of stakeholders: senior officials, experts and scholars, representatives of various stakeholders on various aspects of water problems. Examples of successful policies and practices, recommendations for improving water cooperation through various mechanisms and tools were presented and discussed in these meetings.
It is noteworthy that in all these meetings, the highest priority was given to the development of water cooperation, indicating that the solidarity of the international community to understand the necessity and importance of this initiative.
One of the most important events of the Year, surely, was the International High Level Conference on Water Cooperation, attended by about 1,300 participants from more than 100 countries and 70 international organizations. The Conference concluded its work by adopting three documents: the Declaration, the Chairman’s Summary and Dushanbe Framework for Action in the field of water cooperation, including the main outcomes of the discussions and debates, the detailed results of the plenary sessions and panels of high-level commitments and actions of various stakeholders to further promote water cooperation.
Year due to joint efforts, surely, became one of the most important stages in the development of dialogue and mutual understanding, strengthening cooperation and partnership, being an important component to address water issues in today’s rapidly changing world.
It is clear that solidarity, potential, joint efforts, and the use of effective and adequate approaches and mechanisms will guarantee achieving success in this regard.
4. Global and regional water challenges in Central Asia
Central Asia is featured with an extremely uneven distribution of water resources. More than 80% of water resources of the Aral Sea are formed in the two upper countries – Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, while the countries lying down the river stream – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are the main consumers of water (over 85%). However, the interests of the countries located in the upstream and downstream on water usage timeframe are different. Thus, the upstream countries, with low hydrocarbon resources are interested in maximizing water discharge during winter season when the electricity demand is very high, whereas the downstream countries require the same maximum discharge of water in the summer for irrigation. Herewith, the conflict of interests between irrigation and hydropower lead to conflicts between the countries in the upstream and the downstream.
Having said that, in the 20th century, Central Asia has faced one of the biggest disasters – shrinking of the Aral Sea. From 1960 till 2000 the irrigated land in the region has almost doubled, reaching more than 8 million hectares. Irrigation area mainly increased in the downstream countries with larger flatlands providing the best conditions for the development of irrigated agriculture. This has led to increased diversion of water from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, further leading to a sharp reduction of water inflow to the Aral Sea causing its shallowing. By today the sea has lost over 90% of its former volume and more than 80% of the area, which in turn has generated a number of not only environmental, but also social and economic problems. The scale of the Aral Sea crisis is enormous and as repeatedly mentioned has long crossed the boundaries of Central Asia.
Today the Central Asian region is also facing new challenges, among which climate change and population growth are of particular concern. These challenges on one hand lead to the reduction of water resources, and on the other hand to increased water consumption.
According to experts, the glacial resources of the region, since the second half of the 20th century are declining with an average speed of 0.6-0.8% per year of the glacier area and about 0.1% of ice volume. Glaciers in Tajikistan were significantly affected by climate change, which form a considerable part of the glacial runoff of the Amu Darya. The country’s largest glacier, Fedchenko, 70km in length, has retreated nearly to 1 km, its area decreased by 11km2 and has lost a total of about 2km3 ice only in the XX century. Unfortunately, this trend is steadily continuing. A matter of concern are forecast scenarios, indicating further melting of glaciers and consequently the change of river runoff from minor (5-10%) to very significant (10-40%) in the long term.
This problem is exacerbated by the growing demand for water caused by population growth. The Central Asian region is one of the most active regions in this regard. From 1960 to 2010 the region’s population has increased more than three times. Today over 60 million people are living there. Obviously, population growth will lead to increased water consumption. According to some estimates increased water consumption in Central Asia will form up 15-20% from its current use by 2030. All of this, added with the reduction of river flow due to the impacts of climate change on the same period, then the situation is becoming very critical.
Even today the water resources of natural runoff in the Aral Sea are completely exhausted and the economies of the region are developing in terms of increased water scarcity. Currently their total use makes up 130-150% in Syrdarya river basin and up to 100-110% in Amu Darya Basin. Subsequently, the impacts of climate change will be particularly noticeable on agriculture, and especially on irrigated agriculture that are consuming more than 90% of water resources of the region.
Meanwhile, from year to year water and energy shortages are acutely felt in the region. Due to climate change abnormal weather conditions are occurring in the region – dry years and prolonged winter frosts, which clearly demonstrate the region’s serious capacity deficiency in generating energy and reliable water resources management. Various mass media reports on failures of sustainable electricity transmission not only in Tajikistan, but also in other countries of the region, and also on the problems of water scarcity during summer, especially in dry years, are increasingly becoming the subject of dispute between the countries.
With the present course of events, another alarming factor is the lack of adequate regional cooperation, which entails serious risks and costs. Back in 2006, due to ineffective water resources management upon experts’ estimation the regions losses were U.S. $ 1.75 billion or 3.6% of GDP (Report on Human Development in Central Asia, UNDP, 2006). The main problem, which is becoming a kind of barrier to the full water and energy cooperation in Central Asia is each country’s national policy and interests in the region, which are now based on the principles of self-sufficiency in energy security and water resources forcing the involved countries of the region to pay high costs.
Such a tendency is certainly causing concerns. If such a tendency continues it will have very serious consequences for ensuring water and energy security in the region. All of these are calling for urgent measures on adaptation to the harsh climatic changes and sustainable management of water resources in the region. In turn, this can be achieved only as a result of adoption of coordinated actions by all affected countries on the basis of well-established regional cooperation.
5. Turn water into cooperation
With huge reserves of water resources and hydropower potential, Tajikistan has repeatedly stated its willingness to cooperate for mutual benefit with all stakeholders and especially with the neighboring countries for their effective and efficient use for the benefit of all countries in the region. Joint development of this huge potential could contribute to an integrated solution to many current and future issues in Central Asia.
First of all to ensure water security and guaranteed water for the irrigation of all the Central Asian countries in dry years by the construction of reservoirs to regulate the flow of rivers in the long-term and seasonal section. Acting on the regulatory capacity of the reservoirs today Amu Darya river basin is not sufficient for long-term regulation of the flow that the conditions prevailing poor hydrological situation can lead to large losses in irrigated agriculture. For example in 2000 and 2001 due to two consecutive dry years in the lower reaches of the Amu Darya River about 500 thousand hectares of irrigated land out of circulation, causes huge economic damage. Subsequently, it took several years for them to re-enter into the agricultural revolution. These losses could be avoided if at that time in the Amu Darya basin would be sufficient capacity for long-term reservoirs of flow regulation. For example the construction of Rogun HPP started in 1976 with a net capacity of 8.6 km3 reservoir, together with Nurek and Tuyamuyun reservoirs could provide reliable control of the Amu Darya with coefficient á=0,92, which would meet the requirements of water users at the exhaustion of own resources of the basin. “For the Amu Darya basin commissioning period Rogun reservoir has a great importance because, since 1986 water users requirements to the Amu Darya will exceed the capacity of its seasonal regulation in dry years. Therefore period of development of water management before pool before construction of Rogun reservoir can be stressful at unfavorable combination of dry years that describes the importance of a speedy completion of the Rogun reservoir on the Amu Darya Master Plan scheme.
Secondly the development of the rich hydropower potential of Tajikistan would allow cheap and clean electricity in the region. Over the past 10-15 years the people of Tajikistan live in a tough deficit in winter. Fifth year in a row due to the termination of transit in the coldest period the population of the country gets only 2-3 hours per day electricity and in some areas the population does not receive electricity for 2-3 months in a row. This causes great damage to the socio-economic and environmental situation in the country. In recent years the shortage of electricity in the winter can also be observed in other countries in the region. So the joint development of hydropower resources of Tajikistan would cover the growing needs of not only Tajikistan but other Central Asian countries.
Thirdly the development of the energy also contributes to a significant reduction in emissions of carbon gases. At present the share of fossil fuels in the structure of a region-wide energy balance is more than 90%. Obviously, in this case emits significant amounts of acid gases. It should be noted that from more than 200 countries Tajikistan on the specific emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) is on 154th place. Greenhouse gas emissions per person in Tajikistan are less than 1 ton per person per year and its share of emissions on a regional scale is only 5%. So the development of hydropower and fits into the mainstream efforts at the global level steps for the transition to renewable energy sources is now considered as a top priority for the transition to a “green” economy.
Fourth the development of cheap hydroelectricity would save significant reserves of oil, gas and coal which are intensively used by some countries in the region to produce electricity. So the hydropower is also important in terms of sustainable use of natural resources in the long term. According to te Strategy for regional cooperation in the rational and efficient use of water and energy resources in Central Asia developed by specialists of the region within the UN-SPECA, oil and gas reserves in the region remained for 60 years. With the exhaustion of these reserves will be necessary to switch to coal or nuclear power, which are known as “clean environment”. Thereby Central Asia can expect not quite bright prospects.
Fifth hydroelectric reservoirs contribute to the prevention of extreme meteorological events such as drought, floods and mudslides which are annually causing enormous economic damage to almost all countries in the region.
Special attention should be given to Tajikistan’s offer to establish an international consortium for the use of clean fresh water of Lake Sarez in order to ensure the population of Central Asia with clean drinking water. On the background of the observed rise in the region of water scarcity the project certainly deserves special attention. It should be noted that this significantly reduces the risk of a breakthrough of this lake, which threatens the lives of 6 million people in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and in Turkmenistan.
Resolving these problems may contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction in general and would accelerate the attainment of sustainable development of the region. This will also facilitate the establishment of more effective and close cooperation between the two countries and the development of integration processes in the region.
So the water-power resources of Tajikistan may be the main catalyst for sustainable development and integration processes in the Central Asian region. On this approach the main slogan of Tajikistan’s water policy is: : «Turn water into cooperation».