The state of the environment in Tajikistan, like in many other countries, is affected by natural (climatic, geodynamic, biotic) and anthropogenic (technological, agricultural, industrial, demographical, etc.) factors. The health and well being of the population and economic development greatly depends on the state and conservation of natural resources.
The impact of these factors can be different, depending on the level of technological development and the geographical situation of nations. In the industrially developed countries, the greatest influence comes from transport and industrial sectors. In the developing countries, the environment is mainly affected by the agricultural sector, as well as by forest cuttings and unsustainable management of natural resources.
Agriculture. The greatest impact on the environment comes from agriculture, since over 70% of Tajikistanís population live in rural areas and are engaged in this kind of economic activity. This impact is much increased due to the inappropriate agricultural practice. It should be noted that 4.5 of 14 million hectares of national area are agricultural lands, including 3.6 million ha of pastures, 850 thousand ha of arable lands; the forested areas cover 410 thousand ha; municipal, industrial, and transport lands occupy about 2% of the total area. The rest of the territory (63-66%) are lakes, glaciers, rocks, mountain ecosystems and other lands, which are not used in agriculture.
Some 60-70% of anthropogenic pressures arise from agriculture. Major agricultural practices are: cotton and cereal growing, and pasturing. Inefficient methods of farming have initiated the land degradation and reduced soil fertility. The irrigation, which uses about 90% of all consumed freshwater, produced a negative impact on the state of the Aral Sea, the water level of which has been drastically decreasing since the 1960s. The land development, without consideration of the specific features of loess ground and the drainage system outlets in Yavan, Obikiik valleys, and other regions, resulted in the processes of gully formation. The gullies often reach 25 m in length and over 100 m in width. At the same time, the discharge of polluted and irrigational wastewater has worsened water quality and caused eutrofication.
Overgrazing and forest cuttings caused a deterioration of habitats for many biological species, including rare and endangered ones. The grass cover of pastures is changing in a negative way, when invasive species become prevailing and biomass productivity decreases by 15-25%.
Use of pesticides and chemicals in agriculture (too intensive in particular regions) caused the toxic and chemical contamination of soils and ground waters on the area 30 thousand hectares in the south and north of the Tajikistan.
Industry. The second half of 20th century was characterized by an active development of mining industry, non-ferrous metallurgy, machinery, chemical production, and construction. In northern Tajikistan, mainly the mining of silver, mercury, antimony, lead, gold, and the processing of radioactive elements, was developed. As a result, there are large areas of waste accumulated near those mines; they are dangerous sources of toxic, chemical, and radioactive contamination of water and soil resources. In the south of the republic, there are chemical enterprises, which pose the risk of contamination of ground and surface waters, soils, and air. The operation of the Vakhsh nitric fertilizer factory produces a negative impact on the state of ground waters by contaminating them with nitrogen and nitrate. The southwestern part of Tajikistan contains the aluminum, cement, asphalt, brick, porcelain, and other factories and plants, also representing a negative impact on the environment.
Though many enterprises use a circulating water supply cycle, they still discharge contaminated wastewater into surface watercourses. The waste containing many useful materials and elements are not effectively used, which is a negative factor. Air pollution from aluminum industry affects the health of local population, ecosystems, soils, and water resources. It is primarily caused by fluoride and oxidizing agent emissions. In the industrial sector, the volume of emissions is lower than in 1988 by 20-60%. The existing capacities are based on the technologies of the 1950-70s and do not envisage appropriate environmental measures; most enterprises do not use dust- and gas-purifying devices.
Greenhouse gas emissions are few in the republic and do not affect the climatic system in general. The climate change occurs mainly due to the excessive greenhouse gas emissions by industrially developed countries, the consequences of which are global. Some enterprises have recently conducted the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and received a positive conclusion of experts. The EIA eliminates the state of the environment, assess technological options for reduction of anthropogenic pressures and project scenarios for 5, 10 and more years. However, most enterprises have not EIA evaluation projects. This fact does not favor the improvement of environment.
Transport. Transport (motor, railway, and air) and communications (railways and motor-roads) in Tajikistan have a considerable effect on the air, public health, and ecosystems. In many cases, motorways promote landslides. Over 20,000 hectares of forests were destructed because of construction of new and reconstruction of existing roads. The development of the road network leads to ecosystem fragmentation, destruction of natural migration routes of wild animals, and increase a disturbing factor, including noise effect. There are over 13 thousand km of roads in general-use and 6 thousand km of institutional and local roads. More than 2 thousand km of roads lay in the mountains, which has an adverse affect within the upper reaches of watercourses and alpine ecosystems.
Transport is the main source of air pollution; it annually emits 80 thousand tonnes of harmful substances, i.e. 70% of the total emissions. Transport emissions include over 200 components, the most dangerous of which are: lead elements, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds. Important measures for emission reduction are: use of quality gasoline, exhaust gas filters, applying technological and economic regulation measures.
Energy. Main pressures from energy sector are air pollution and artificial regulation of watercourses. The hydropower engineering had been widely developed in the 1960-1980s; it promoted the intensification of industry and mechanical irrigation on the one hand, but caused the flooding of 60-80 thousand hectares of productive agricultural areas, soil salinization, and the rise of ground water levels in some regions, on the other. An impact on the geological environment also occurs, accompanied by the increased seismic activity of the area, e.g. near the Nurek Reservoir. Heat power engineering is not widely developed. The general productivity of heat power plants and diesel stations does not exceed 280-300 million kWh, with only 20-30% of this power being used now. The share of hydroelectric power in electricity production is 95%. To increase the production of hydroelectric power, the works on constructing two large hydroelectric power plants (Sangtuda and Rogun) are being carried out.
Tourism. At present, the tourist activity often causes damage to the environment of Tajikistan. Sometimes, tourists spoil the most unique areas of the country. In the vicinity of the world known seven-thousand-meter peaks and other high-altitude areas, mountain-climbers and tourist have left some 10-12 thousand tonnes of litter and other waste, including cans, equipment, building materials, damaged and broken machinery. At least 15 thousand tonnes of litter have been accumulated on the tourist paths of Kukhistan (Gissar-Zeravshan tourist province). Moreover, tourism is accompanied by the development of new natural areas, thereby leading to the reduction of habitats for wild animals and plants.
Forestry. In view of limited forest resources in Tajikistan, forest authorities annually conduct only sanitary woodcuttings on the area 3-4 thousand hectares. In addition, forest melioration and afforestation are typical practices. The most intensive forest cuttings had been observed between 1940-1970s when over 80-100 thousand hectares of forests were cleared out for agricultural purposes. Due to the lack of fuel and building materials crisis the process of illegal forest cuttings as well as forest degradation, soil erosion and natural disasters continues. It is necessary to note that Tajikistanís forests are rich and diverse in plant and animal species, therefore both forest cuttings and degradation adversely affects biological diversity. Forest cuttings and degradation are a great threat for vulnerable mountain regions.
Thus, managing environmental and economic issues in Tajikistan through driving forces is the strategic approach in environmental protection and conservation.
Last update 03/03/2003