Water Access in Tajikistan
Despite having the greatest natural supply of freshwater sources across the region, water access in Tajikistan is an ongoing challenge. Only 55% of the country’s residents have access to this human right that has turned into a luxury. The country already faces several shortcomings and obstacles across the rural areas. Tajikistan has progressed in the past decade in reconfiguring its water laws and existing supply systems. Although it increased access to improved water sources from 75% to more than 84%, the critical issues of water security and continuous supply still remain. The work that has occurred during the past decade has paved a way for further progress. More work is necessary to address the issue of water access at its core.

The Roots of The Issue of Water Access

According to the research that the World Bank conducted, obstructions to water access in Tajikistan are likely due to poor infrastructure. Much of the piping was built throughout the 1970s and 1980s and commissioned by the Soviet Union. Since the fall of the USSR in 1991, these facilities have seen little to no maintenance. According to research conducted by Marufjon Abdujabborov in 2020, a specialist in analysis in Tajikistan’s internal office, only 68% of water infrastructure in cities was in working order, and across rural areas that figure dropped to 40%.

Aside from the effects of consuming unsanitary water on internal organs, the inadequacies of water access in Tajikistan also have a strong bearing on hygiene facilities, instilling harsh inequalities across the country. For example, only 1.7% of households in rural areas have access to a flush toilet, compared to 60% across urban areas. The World Bank reported that “One in four households in Tajikistan does not have access to sufficient quantities of water when needed. Service is interrupted for long periods because of breakdowns in water supply infrastructure.” Poor access to water systems forces many in the affected areas to gather water from neighboring provinces and villages. Doing so has worsened tensions amongst rural communities and increased border disputes. Furthermore, the responsibility of gathering water typically falls on women and children of the household. This impedes children’s education and causes detrimental effects on their health.

A Project to Solve the Water Crisis

Tajikistan Water Supply and Sanitation Investment Project, which was introduced in 2021, outlines strategic initiatives for expanding safe and affordable water supply and sanitation across the country. On July 2022, the International Development Association (IDA) grant of $45 million was approved, thereby securing funding for the project. The proposal focuses on following a series of initiatives targeting strongly affected areas, starting with the region of Khatlon. Projected beneficiaries of this operation amount to 250,000 residents across the region. There are other 24 similar projects that the World Bank has financed across Tajikistan.

Additional investment by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will target vulnerable areas of the Dushanbe region. Reconfiguration of the regional water systems, including sanitation and sewage collection, are the overarching aims of the aforementioned programs. Further development initiatives under the Water Supply and Sanitation Investment Project can draw inspiration and models of sustainable operation that are developed by the current investments.

Women-led Solutions Through Associations

In 2012, the Tajik government introduced local “water users associations” in response to the challenges associated with water access in Tajikistan. It commissions private farms to manage the delivery of water across their respective regions and promotes the management of irrigation systems and water supplies. The struggle has seen resourceful individuals rise to the challenges and take action through the water users’ associations. Uguloy Abdullaeva, a local dairy farmer in Dushanbe, was elected as the acting head of her association. Through her fundraising efforts, she received $420,000 from the American embassy to fund the reformation of the project.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) offered two years of training in water management to Uguloy. As a result, she gained a comprehensive understanding of water management and effectively invested in a piece of land, an excavator, new pipes and water locks for the region. The knowledge she learned from the training programs has spread to farmers within her association. Since then, farmers have become more responsible with their farms and there are fewer issues with water.

Further funding for development assistance is necessary to extend operations and ensure access to clean water for those that need it. The inspiring work of associations and individuals is effectively handling investments and improving water access across their districts. It has changed the lives of thousands in vulnerable areas. Most importantly, it serves as a strong example for the youth and citizens to build a better Tajikistan.

– Bojan Ivancic
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water in Tajikistan
In an effort to address one of Tajikistan’s greatest needs, a team of engineers in partnership with the humanitarian organization Global Partners is working to provide clean water in Tajikistan. The rural areas in which the team focuses its efforts are among the poorest in the country and are unable to start large projects on their own. The Global Partners team provides communities with the funds, structure and knowledge to improve their standard of living.

Tajikistan’s Long Road to Poverty Reduction

Tajikistan has maintained its third-world status due to many hardships in the country’s past. For 70 years Tajikistan was occupied by the Soviet Union, only finding independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved.

However, civil war soon broke out as communists and democratic forces fought for control over the new government. By the time a ceasefire was declared in 1994, thousands had died and more than 250,000 people had been displaced. Fighting continued intermittently throughout the country until June 1997, when a peace agreement organized by the United Nations officially ended the conflict, beginning the first period since the country’s independence without strife.

As the country has attempted to recover from this devastating war, a new constitution has established legislative, executive and judicial branches of government and endeavored to spur new development. Fortunately, much-needed growth has come, as Tajikistan has seen swift drops in poverty, with rates falling from 83 percent to 47 percent between 2000 and 2009 and then again from 37 percent to 31 percent between 2012 and 2016.

However, many areas continue to face problems despite the decline in monetary poverty. Clean water, electricity and modern medicine are all luxuries in most parts of Tajikistan as infrastructure is continually weak and ineffective.

Clean Water in Tajikistan Communities Key to Their Development

Attempting to build successful communities and advance the capabilities of local workforces, Global Partners has been an effective force for humanitarian relief in more than 20 countries, now focusing its efforts in Afghanistan, China and Tajikistan. Recognizing the need rural people have for clean water in Tajikistan, Global Partners established a team of engineers that began working in the country three years ago.

The team works to provide reliable sources of clean water in Tajikistan by finding nearby groundwater springs and laying pipework to the community. Additionally, the volunteers provide the village’s men with jobs, working alongside them and training them on how to maintain and repair the water system.

While the group is headquartered in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, most of their work is conducted in mountain villages around the city, where poverty has a greater hold on the people. For the past three years, the team has worked in seven villages, having supplied clean water to four, and beginning work in two more this summer.

Matthew Biggs, an engineer who has been working with the Global Partners team since November 2017, told The Borgen Project, “We’ve seen the effects of receiving access to clean water several times; even the prospect of renewable clean water is enough to revitalize a village. Giving such a basic need to these people has permanently changed their lives for the better and given a foothold for them to continue to reach higher standards of living.”

The work Global Partners is doing to provide clean water in Tajikistan continually addresses the most prevalent needs of the people.

– Sarah Dean
Photo: Pixabay