A New Flow of Opportunities

An emergency loan to fund repairs to Tajikistan's troubled water supply reduces waste, boosts farm productivity, and improves incomes.

Loikasai Village—It was the day before Idi Qurbon (the Feast of Sacrifice) and the normally bustling hillside village of Loikasai was almost deserted.

Under ordinary circumstances such a sight might have been viewed with concern. But 33-year-old shop owner Kudrat Safarov said it was a good sign, with most of the villagers gone to the nearby town to sell vegetables and buy food for the three-day religious festival.

The scene is testimony to a turnaround in the once impoverished Uzbek minority village's economic fortunes, aided in no small part by the revival of its water supply system damaged in an earthquake in May 2001.

The quake cracked the intake structure of the Loikasai siphon, leaving 56,000 people, 65,000 livestock, and 11,724 hectares of farm land without water.

Soon after the incident, ADB sent missions to inspect the damage before approving an emergency loan of US$3.54 million which was used to partly cover the cost of rebuilding the siphon, and to construct a 4.2-kilometer bypass canal.

The project also repaired the Vakhsh-Yavan tunnel and the Pravaya Vetka main canal. Although undamaged in the quake, the structures built in 1968 were in poor condition, with malfunctioning and missing gates, that resulted in wasted water. The 30-year-old steel pipelines in two other siphons in Ishmasai (Yavan district) and Shurchasai (along the boundary of Yavan and Khojamaston districts) were replaced with fiberglass pipes which have a longer lifespan of 70 years.

Completed at the end of October 2003, the system now discharges 167 cubic meters per second of water to three districts in southern Tajikistan—Yavan, Gozimalik, and Khojamaston. All three districts have high poverty incidence levels of around 90%.

Harvests Improve, Incomes Rise

The improvements have boosted villagers' disposable income, according to shopowner Safarov. Most people living in the three villages in Yavan district, which now enjoy a steady supply of clean water for household and irrigation use, earn their living from vegetable and livestock farming.

"I used to earn only 100 somonis (around $29) a day, now the store is earning 1,000 somonis (around $290) a day," Safarov said. The roadside business sells basic household items ranging from salt, sugar, and cooking oil to jackets, rugs and house ornaments.

"The cotton harvest is much better. The number of cattle and livestock has increased," said Shermatov Ochildi, who lives in Loikasai village and teaches Uzbek literature and language at the local school.

"The children have better clothing than before," he commented, reflecting the improved standard of living in the local population as a result of the rebuilt water system.

The increase in income has allowed some villagers to buy cars, including 49-year-old Kodur Yormatov who is a supervisor of the water supply system.

"We didn't have much income before (the reconstruction of the canal)," says Yormatov. Now he owns an Opel that costs $5,000 and supplements his government wages with harvests from a small plot of land just outside his home.

Better Health Care, Better Quality of Life

Homidjon Hasanov, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Resources, noted that in addition to providing a clean and stable flow of water, the system is regulated to ensure that people do not go without supplies even in the harsh summer months when temperatures can rise as high as 45 degrees Celsius in this arid region.

The result has been bountiful harvests for farmers in the area, according to data from the Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Resources.

In Gozimalik district, the area of irrigated land more than doubled to 13,632 hectares in 2003 from 6,431 hectares in 2000. The cotton harvest yield increased to 2.3 tons per hectare from 0.93 tons in 2000, while the wheat yield rose to 2.74 tons per hectare from just 0.86 tons in 2000.

The better quality water has also boosted the health of villagers in Loikasai.

"There are less sick people now. We get only seasonal sickness such as flu," Community doctor Tangiberdiev Abdumumin said. He used to see 10 patients a day, now he treats just two or three.

The health gains are also due to a vaccination campaign in the village and better sanitary conditions, he said.

"I need clean water to cleanse my medical equipment," notes Doctor Abdumumin who has been serving the community from his two-room clinic for the past four years.