Tajikistan's mountainous terrain and climatic extremes mean flooding is common but flood prevention infrastructure is helping provide a more secure base for rural livelihoods.

By the numbers

11.6 kms
of embankment rehabilitation on the Pyanj River in Hamadoni District
3.5-4 hours
of lead-time between flood warning triggers and
flood risk
of village leaders aware of flood risk and basic response requirements

Actual, as estimated by project staff

Hamadoni, Tajikistan - It's spring in Tajikistan. As the temperature warms, ice and snow will begin to melt in the mountains, which cover 93% of the country. Snowmelt will rush into the country's rivers. Some may overflow their banks.

Tajikistan is prone to frequent flooding due to its mountainous terrain and naturally extreme climate, with temperatures dropping to -10°C in the winter and rising to above 40°C in the summer. People in some parts of the country can expect to be flooded once every 2 years.

Given this, Tajikistan is one of the more vulnerable countries in the world to rising temperatures and climate change, though it produces less greenhouse gas than almost anywhere else.

"We have the moral responsibility to help protect the [Tajikistan] people from floods," says ADB's Country Director for Tajikistan C.C. Yu, "as well as to help them better manage their water resources."

In 2005, ADB responded to devastating floods that struck the Khatlon Province, in the southwest of Tajikistan, which destroyed more than 250 buildings, as well as roads, bridges, and water towers, and wiped away 4,000 hectares of arable topsoil. But ADB's emergency response loans have not just helped people rebuild. They have also helped the region build back better, protecting people in the Khatlon Province from the looming threat of future floods.

Mopping up

When floodwaters rushed her home in Metintugay Village, in Hamadoni District, in 2005, 60-year-old Mahina Mansurova felt like she was in a warzone.

"Our houses were submerged, and we lost cows, sheep, gardens, and fields - key sources of our income."

- Mahina Mansurova, resident of Metintugay Village, Hamadoni District.

"Everyone was out in the streets escaping from the surging waters. We had to run for about 4 kilometers (km) to find a safer place," she says. Mansurova's village was one of many villages and farms that were severely affected by the flooding. "No one died, but our houses were submerged, and we lost cows, sheep, gardens, and fields - key sources of our income," she says.

Extreme flooding caused about $50 million in damage, destroying embankments along the Pyanj River. Canals were also ruined, cutting off fertile land from irrigation, and interrupting the supply of drinking water to the local population. Over 16,000 people had to be evacuated.

To respond quickly to the disaster, ADB changed the scope of two ongoing loans, the Agriculture Rehabilitation Project and the Irrigation Rehabilitation Project. The additional funds were put to work rehabilitating embankments along the Pyanj River - which forms the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan - and reconstructing the Dekhkanabad and Chubek canals, along with other structures requiring urgent repairs in the wake of the flooding.

The result was flood protection covering 50,000 hectares of land, and new essential infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, and military facilities.

Preventing future deluges

To help reduce the risk of future flooding in the four vulnerable districts of Hamadoni, Farhor, Kulyab, and Vose, ADB provided a $22 million loan for the Khatlon Flood Risk Management Project in 2007.

It constructed over 11 km of flood protection embankments, and 18 spur dikes to reduce the water flow of the Pyanj River. With proper maintenance, the embankments will protect the project area for many years to come.

"Proper operation and maintenance of the constructed and rehabilitated structures is key for sustainability," says Yu. "We welcome the government's commitment to providing adequate resources for routine operations and maintenance, despite the existing fiscal constraints."

The project also used a comprehensive disaster management approach, helping communities institute flood warnings, public awareness campaigns, flood-risk maps, and community evacuation plans. People living in flood-prone areas are now more aware of the dangers, better prepared for them, and able to monitor for potential hazards.

"Almost half a million people in four districts are now protected, have water to drink and irrigate their fields, and can plan their future."

- Rahmat Bobokalonov, minister of water resources

The interventions are working. "In 2010, our specialists registered that the water flow in the Pyanj River was much more than in 2005," says Minister of Water Resources Rahmat Bobokalonov. "But thanks to our partnership with ADB, the river did not cause another massive flood."

As the climate changes, the water in the river will likely continue to rise, meaning that the embankments and other disaster preparedness measures will become increasingly important.

For now, though, the embankments are providing the stability people in the Khatlon province need to stay afloat financially.

"The results speak for themselves," says Bobokalonov. "Almost half a million people in four districts are now protected, have water to drink and irrigate their fields with, and can plan their future."