Tajikistan | Climate Change​

Improving River Basin Management

Threatened by climate change, the Pyanj River Basin is now the center of climate-proofing activities, thanks to a collaborative project by ADB and the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction.

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Resilient River Basin. Lives and livelihoods of people dependent on the Pyanj River Basin in Tajikistan have a more secure future as the basin becomes better protected and climate-proofed.

Project

Water Resources Management in the Pyanj River Basin Project

Project Cost

$33.7 million

  • ADB $25 million
  • Tajikistan $3.7 million
  • Financing Partner
    • Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction $5 million

Approval Date

September 2016

Signing Date

15 Nov 2016

Completion

June 2024

Partnership Results

River basin organizations and water user association
Climate-proofed Chubek Irrigation System

Background

River basins cradle the lives of many people. They provide a variety of benefits such as water supply, livelihood, energy, flood mitigation, and recreation, and habitats that support a wide range of ecosystems. In Tajikistan, the Pyanj River Basin is the lifeblood of many communities. The Pyanj River Basin is critical to the agricultural sector in Tajikistan. Straddling the country’s border to Afghanistan, it spans most of the Khatlon province, which is home to the most extensive agriculture production in Tajikistan. But while it is the biggest river basin in the country, it is also the poorest. It is a food-insecure zone and the site of frequent flood disasters.

The river basin is enclosed by glaciers and snowfields as high as 3,500 meters. This topography makes the area prone to recurring disasters such as avalanches, landslides, floods, and mudflows. A 2009 study showed that traditional flood and erosion control practices have subverted its natural river processes. Instead of mitigating flood and erosion, flood control efforts such as embankments, bank armoring, and channel straightening merely redirected flood and erosion to other areas.

Climate scenarios show that the spate of disasters in the area may worsen over time. Tajikistan is projected to experience temperature increase of up to 2° Celsius by 2050, which will lead to the faster decline of glaciers. Between 2010 to 2050, glacial extent may decline by 50%. Floods, avalanches, and landslides will surely follow. This increase in temperature will also lead to higher crop water demand in a land where agriculture is a major source of livelihood. This will threaten not just farmers’ incomes, but food security in the country as well.

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The Pyanj River straddles the borders of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Through the collaboration of ADB and the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, river basin organizations will be established and irrigation infrastructure climate-proofed to protect these countries from severe floods and avalanches along the river while mobilizing their farmers to simultaneously protect the environment and increase their productivity.

Interventions

The need to make the Pyanj River Basin climate-proofed and better protected is critical. ADB and the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction Fund (JPFR) worked together to address this concern by motivating the people to come together to protect the river while climate-proofing the Chubek Irrigation System, the largest irrigation infrastructure drawing water from the Pyanj. The project was prepared with support from the Multi-Donor Trust Fund under the Water Financing Partnership Facility.

The Water Resource Management in the Pyanj River Project’s technical assistance component has been supporting the government to organize river basin organizations (RBOs) comprising selected experts. The RBOs will help look after the basin using a river-basin management plan that they will craft. For preparation and monitoring of the implementation of this plan, local government officers and RBO staff are also being trained to accurately measure and record diverted water flows at key sections along the river and to process the data they gathered properly.

The project also plans to form a regional level Pyanj River Basin (PRB) commission comprising representatives from Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The project has begun facilitating consultations with Afghanistan. The aim is for Tajikistan and Afghanistan to draft an agreement to form the joint PRB commission and thresh out its institutional structure, implementation plan, and administrative and technical operational procedures. The project will also help the planned commission conduct hydro-meteorological monitoring and forecasting.

While forming these organizations, the project is making the Chubek Irrigation System more energy efficient. It will install a sediment-excluding basin to reduce sediment inflow to the irrigation system and build-up along its canals. It will modernize and rehabilitate the irrigation and distribution infrastructure, including all its pumping units. These upgrades will ensure that the irrigation system can withstand climate change risks anticipated during the next 50 years.

The project is also working on improving farmers’ capacity to manage their land while enhancing their water use skills. Through a series of training and demonstration, farmers, both women and men, were provided with inputs on how to make their farms profitable using agronomic techniques, improved seeds, balanced application of fertilizers, and the establishment of water use associations (WUAs). Women are actively involved in their own farm lots, but they were encouraged to participate more by joining the project activities, particularly in managing the WUAs.

Results

The project will be completed by 2024. Once accomplished, it will increase the Chubek Irrigation System’s conveyance efficiency from 60% to 82% for pump-fed systems and from 60% to 66% for gravity-fed systems. Removing the sediments from the irrigation system should enable it to achieve the project’s target increase in energy efficiency from 50% to 75%. To date, the detailed design for the modernization and rehabilitation of the Chubek irrigation system is ongoing.

The project’s technical assistance component has already made headway in organizing river basin organizations and water user associations. Series of river basin dialogues has been conducted with participation of local government officers and water users. Through consultants funded by the JFPR, the project has started showing farmers, local officials, and government organizations how they can help the river basin. The staff of the river basin organizations will be selected soon.

The project demonstrates the importance of people’s organized actions─from the ground up to the regional level─to protect the river basin and the lives that depend on it. Climate change resiliency, the project aims to show, is not merely infrastructure improvement but, more importantly, the protection of the poorest and the most vulnerable.