Land resources are important for sustainable development of the nation, as well as for economic, ecological, and social well being. In Tajikistan, they represent the basis for irrigated and rain-fed farming, gardening, and pasturing. Low-productive stony and desert soils, rocks, and glaciers comprise the greater part of the country’s area. Primordially low productivity of soils leads to their intensive use and, consequently, further soil degradation. In this connection, human pressure per unit of land in Tajikistan is much higher than in other countries.
As a typical mountainous country, Tajikistan is characterized by an altitude zonation of soil cover. In the plain landscapes, sandy desert and gray-brown soils are common; in foothill areas, gray soils dominate. Alluvial soils are formed in river floodplains and lower terraces. Salt-affected and saline soils are formed in relief depressions, where ground water is near surface. In the mountain zone, mountainous brown and light-brown soils are formed, depending on humidity conditions. The high-mountain areas, depending on humidity, are characterized by high-mountain meadow-steppe and desert soils with saline soil fragments. The top of the high-altitude zone either lacks a soil layer or has its weakly developed forms.
The total area of the land resources of Tajikistan is 14.2 million hectares. Nearly 4.6 million ha are currently agricultural lands, including 3.6 million ha of pastures and 720-840 thousand ha of arable lands, and over 100 thousand ha of perennial plantations. Rocks and debris occupy 17.5% of the total area, glaciers and watercourses - 9%, forested areas - 3%, urbanized areas (settlements, transport, industrial lands) - about 2%.
Over 5 thousand farms have been organized lately; they own mainly arable and irrigated lands. Forests and pasturelands are a state property.
The specific area of arable lands reduces year by year. In 1970, there was 0.17 ha of arable lands per capita, in 2000 - 0.12 ha per capita; this indicator is projected to decrease to 0.08 ha per capita by the year 2010. There are 1.5 million hectares of lands suitable for irrigation in Tajikistan; half of them have been already developed. These are mainly lands with a relatively flattened relief, located in lower terraces of rivers and ancient fans.
In the period of 1930-1950, the area of irrigated lands remained mainly constant and totaled 300 thousand ha. The intensive development of Vakhsh, Syrdarya, Obikiik, Beshkent, Asht, Dangara, Gissar, Kyzylsu-Yakhsu and Yavan valleys led to considerable increase of irrigated areas to 500 thousand ha in 1970 and over 700 thousand ha in 2000. A lot of forests were cut down because of mastering of lands that consequently caused widespread erosion processes in many areas.
Alongside with changes in irrigated lands, the areas of agricultural crops were changed too. For example, the cotton area was 100 thousand ha in 1940. By 1980, over 300 thousand ha of irrigated lands were developed under this crop with record harvest over 1 million tonnes of cotton. In the period of 1960-1980, cereals area was reduced; however, at present, it has been increased up to 390-420 thousand ha in view of urgent needs for providing sufficient food supply of the country.
Many anthropogenic factors impact the state of land resources. In some regions, there are negative facts of land use without registration of land allotment protocols, engineering-environmental judgment and adequate environmental assessment. Rain-fed lands are used to grow agricultural crops without soil-protecting technologies. This is particularly often observed in the Vose, Dangara, Kulyab, Yavan, and Nurek regions in the south of Tajikistan. A number of cases of violating the land-use regulations are reported from some northern regions of Tajikistan (Matcha, Aini, Shakhristan).
It should be mentioned the arable irrigated lands have been reduced by 20-30 thousand ha; however, rain-fed croplands have been increased due to the ploughing forested steep slopes and mastering new lands.
In 1997-2001, over 20 thousand ha of irrigated arable lands left fallow because of unsustainable land resources management and soil salinization, swamping, and erosion. The lack of water and spring floods also played a particular role.
Land use and land resources protection are regulated by the Land Code, Forest Code and Water Code of the Republic of Tajikistan, as well as by the Laws on mineral resources, nature protection, protected areas, State ecological programme, Regulation on state control of land resources, etc.
The Land Code states the rights and responsibilities of land-users; tasks on land protection and sustainable land resources management. Law on nature protection determines the frameworks of permissible disturbance of land resources. State ecological programme underlines measures on preventing deterioration of land resources and their use depending on anthropogenic pressures. Taxation Code envisages a number of mechanisms of paying for land use and land rent.
The republic has sufficient institutional potential in the field of land resource management and use, including the State Committee on Land Resources, Ministry for Nature Protection, Ministry of Water Management, State Committee on Mining Control, State Forest Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, etc. There are research institutions that elaborate response measures to improve land resources management. While planning business activities, the ministries and departments should consider possible measures on land management, reclamation, and restoration of lands.
Basic response measures on preventing land resources degradation are: land reclamation and melioration, implementation of effective methods of territorial planning, land resources inventory and research. Expert evaluation of environmental aspects of land use, development of new regulations on land management, and land-users training are significant measures for land resources protection and conservation.
Last update 03/03/2003