Water project supported by Finland helps adjust to climate change in Tajikistan

In the harsh conditions of the mountainous Gorno-Badakshan autonomous region (GBAO), providing safe drinking water and proper toilets for the most vulnerable is not enough. People must also know how to prepare for climate change – but how does that happen?

The GBAO, Gorno-Badakshan, is located in the Pamir Mountains and makes up nearly half of the land area of Tajikistan. The population is about 200,000 and most people live in the rural areas, often in rather primitive conditions. In order to get clean water, people have to either walk for hours every day or pay high fees to service providers who deliver water by vehicles.

In wintertime the temperature can drop as low as to minus 40–50°C. In recent years, the area has more and more often suffered from natural disasters like floods, mudslides, earthquakes, heavy rains and extremely cold periods.  Floods and landslides connected to heavy rains and melting snow often damage houses and hamper water supply. 

Better living conditions on "the roof of the world"

The Pamir project, which has been supported from Finland's development cooperation funds, has already improved the living conditions of thousands of Pamiris, especially women and children.  Water supply systems constructed together with local communities and local authorities include over 18 km of water pipelines and 10 boreholes and give access to safe drinking water to 4,315 people.

Additionally, private urine-diverting dry toilets have been fitted in 100 households (496 people) together with a special place for handwashing nearby the toilets. Local people’s conception of ‘safe water’ has changed during the project. 

The Pamir project includes 10 boreholes. Photo: Saija Vuola/Finnish Environment Institute

The use of tested water from the boreholes has reduced the occurrence of water-borne diseases, and this has made people aware of the matter.

Local satisfaction and high-level recognition

Both the beneficiary communities and regional and national government representatives have expressed very high satisfaction with the water and sanitation systems supported by the Programme. 

On the National Unity Day in June 2016, the Tajik President inaugurated the water distribution system, a strategically important and high quality piece of infrastructure, in the Ghudara village in Bartang valley. 

The Deputy Director of the Strategic Research Center under the President announced that the new water facilities in Zong sub-district will be replicated in other parts of Tajikistan with the government’s support.

Foundations of sustainable water services for future

Besides water pipelines and irrigation canals, 15 water user committees (WUC) have been established in villages to organize the water system and collect the water fees.

Altogether 140 members of WUCs have been trained to educate over a thousand people in the villages about sustainable management of natural resources, pasture management, integrated watershed management, land use planning and climate change.  In addition, community health promoters and the primary health care centres have given hygiene and health education to over 600 people in the local communities. 

Natural hazards that threated water supply and habitation have been concretely mapped in 20 project sites to ensure a better resilience for the communities.  The mapping paid special attention in landslides and floods, which become more likely with climate change.

The education provided in connection with the project increased village people's and local authorities' knowledge of climate change. Climate sustainability was also improved through concrete hands-on projects, including terracing and stabilising of two unsafe hill slopes.

Three schools were thermo-insulated, which has already proved to be extremely essential. During days of extreme cold, the local children can spend most of the time in the insulated schools rather than in their houses to stay warm.

Päivi Kari, Communications Specialist and Johanna Kallio, Engineer

The writers are employed at the Finnish Environment Institute.