LAND AND GEOGRAPHY OF TAJIKISTAN

LAND AND GEOGRAPHY OF TAJIKISTAN

Located in southeastern Central Asia and bordered by Kyrgyzstan to the north, the Xinjiang region of China to the east, Afghanistan to the south, and Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan covers 144,100 square kilometers (55,251 square miles), which is roughly the same size as Illinois, Wisconsin or Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland combined. Because Tajikistan lies in an active seismic belt, severe earthquakes are common.

The smallest nation in Central Asia and once the southernmost extension of the Soviet empire, Tajikistan stretches for about 800 kilometers (500 miles) from east to west and 350 kilometers from north to south. Landlocked and strategically located between Central Asia, China and Afghanistan, Tajikistan shares an 800 mile border with Afghanistan through rugged, mountainous terrain. Some of the borders were worked out by Russia and Britain as a settlement to bring an end to the Great Game. Major land features in Tajikistan include the Pamirs and the Fergana Valley, which Tajikistan shares with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

About 6 percent of the country is good for agriculture (compared to 21 percent in the United States). About 75 percent of this is in the Fergana Valley. The remainder is in the mountain valleys, the western plains around Dushanbe and irrigated areas near the major rivers. Forests are found mostly in the mountains. Most people live around Dushanbe and in valleys with arable land.

The valleys where people live tend to be very narrow. Agriculture is nourished by silt and irrigation waters delivered by fast-flowing rivers and streams fed by melting snow. As one moves from west to east the landscapes gets progressively greener. This is result of the rain blocking effect of mountains in the west and the moist winds and rain catching effect of the Tien Shan and Pamir mountains in the east. Along the Tajikistan and China border mountains are broken up by gaps and passes used by Silk Road traders.

Tajikstan is effectively divided into three regions divided by mountains whose roads become impassable in the winter. They are: 1) the northern portions, dominated by the town of Khojand; 2) Dushanbe is in the south. 3) To east is the Badakhshan Autonomous Region, Still a part of Tajikistan, it is a sparely populated area inhabited mostly by small valley-based ethnic groups including the Pamiri Tajiks and Kyrgyz. The most developed town in this area is Khorog.

The isolation of the Pamiri Tajiks has kept them close to their ancient traditions. Although the people of the Khojand region also are isolated, they are more accessible to the other republics. They were the ruling clan in the Soviet era. Dushanbe (Stalinobod from 1929 to 1961), the capital, is in the west-central region and is the largest city. In 1924, it was chosen to be the capital of the new autonomous republic because of its low population and central location. [Source: Everyculture.com]

Basic Geographical Facts for Tajikistan

Total area of Tajikistan: 144,100 square kilometers, country comparison to the world: 96; land: 141,510 square kilometers; water: 2,590 square kilometers. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Land boundaries: total: 4,130 kilometers: borders four countries: Afghanistan: 1,357 kilometers; China: 477 kilometers; Kyrgyzstan: 984 kilometers; Uzbekistan: 1,312 kilometers. Coastline: 0 kilometers (landlocked); Maritime claims: none (landlocked). =

Terrain: Pamir and Alay Mountains dominate landscape; western Fergana Valley in north, Kofarnihon and Vakhsh Valleys in southwest. Elevation extremes: lowest point: Syr Darya (Sirdaryo) 300 meters; highest point: Qullai Ismoili Somoni 7,495 meters. =

Natural resources: hydropower, some petroleum, uranium, mercury, brown coal, lead, zinc, antimony, tungsten, silver, gold.

Some six to seven percent of Tajikistan is classified as arable land, 5 percent is forested, and 0.9 percent is devoted to permanent crops. The remainder is mountains, valleys, glaciers, and desert. Land use: agricultural land: 34.7 percent; arable land 6.1 percent; permanent crops 0.9 percent; permanent pasture 27.7 percent; forest: 2.9 percent; other: 62.4 percent (2011 est.). Irrigated land: 7,421 square kilometers (2009). Total renewable water resources: 21.91 cubic kilometers (2011); Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 11.49 cubic kilometers a year (6 percent/4 percent/91 percent); per capita: 1,740 cubic meters a year (2006). = *

Disputed Territory: Tajikistan has a territorial dispute with Kyrgyzstan over land in the Isfara Valley in the far northeast, and full demarcation of the border with Uzbekistan has been delayed by Uzbekistan’s mining of its borders. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007 **]

Central Asia

Central Asia embraces Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, five former Soviet republics. Sometimes western China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, south-central Russia and/or Mongolia are included depending on whether the countries are grouped together by language family, geography, horseman-nomadic traditions or sharing the “stan” suffix.” The core five Central Asian nation, plus western China (Xinjiang) are sometimes called Turkestan (Turkistan) because many of the people that live there speak Turkic languages. The term “Inner Asia” is also used. It includes Tibet and Manchuria, with a particular focus on people with horseman-nomadic traditions.

Central Asia has traditionally provided a bridge between Asia and Europe, which meet on the Eurasia steppe. The region is often regarded as exotic because its association with the Silk Road, the Great Game, and cultures and people that Westerners have traditionally known little about. The regions inaccessibility during the Soviet area only augmented this reputation.

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan together occupy about 7.5 million square kilometers, an area around half the size of the continental United States or two thirds the size of the European Union. Central Asia is defined geographically by the Caspian Sea to the west, the northern part of the Kazakhstan steppe to the north, the Altay Mountains and Taklamakan Desert of China to the east and the Pamirs and southern Turkmenistan deserts in the south. The dying Aral Sea lies between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Central Asia is mostly arid and landlocked, with steppes in the north and harsh deserts in the south. Majestic mountains — in particular the Tien Sien and the Pamirs — dominate the east and southeast. There are high plateaus around the mountains. The rivers that thread through the region are fed by melting snow and glaciers and carve deep valleys and ravines. Many important agricultural areas are irrigated, sometimes using ancient qanat systems of underground canals; other times canals built during the Soviet era. Important crops include cotton, wheat, melons, rice and vegetables. Around the mountains and in the steppes people herd sheep, goats and horses. Scattered around the region are large deposits of oil, natural gas, gold, aluminum and other valuable minerals. The largest oil and natural gas deposits are in and around the Caspian Sea in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Topography of Tajikistan

The lowest elevations are located in the northwest, the southwest, and the Fergana Valley, which dominates Tajikistan’s far northern section. The mountain chains are interspersed with deep valleys formed by a complex network of rivers. The eastern mountains contain many glaciers and lakes. The Fedchenko Glacier, which covers 700 square kilometers, is the largest non-polar glacier in the world. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007]

Mountains cover 93 percent of Tajikistan and half the country is above 3,000 meters and three quarters of that is under permanent snow or glaciers. The high passes are often blocked by snow and landslides well into spring. The mountains bring snowmelt water and life. Between some of the mountain peaks and ridges are highland pastures used by herders, forested valleys and clear swift streams that feed Tajikistan’s vital rivers and hydroelectric power industry. The famous steppes and deserts of Central Asia are mostly in other Central Asian countries.

The lower elevations of Tajikistan are divided into northern and southern regions by a complex of three mountain chains that constitute the westernmost extension of the massive Tian Shan system. Running essentially parallel from east to west, the chains are the Turkestan, Zarafshon, and Hisor (Gisar) mountains. The last of these lies just north of the capital, Dushanbe, which is situated in west-central Tajikistan. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

The Fergana Valley, the most densely populated region in Central Asia, spreads across northern Tajikistan from Uzbekistan on the west to Kyrgyzstan on the east. This long valley, which lies between two mountain ranges, reaches its lowest elevation of 320 meters at Khujand on the Syr Darya.. Rivers bring rich soil deposits into the Fergana Valley from the surrounding mountains, creating a series of fertile oases that have long been prized for agriculture (see Agriculture). *

Major Rivers of Tajikistan

In Tajikistan's dense river network, the largest rivers are the Syr Darya, the Amu Darya (called the Panj in its upper reaches in Tajikistan), the Vakhsh (called the Surkhob in its upper reaches in Tajikistan), and the Kofarnihon. The Amu Darya carries more water than any other river in Central Asia. The Vakhsh is an important source of hydropower. In the Soviet era, the Vakhsh River was dammed for irrigation and electric power, and factories were built along its banks. Most of the southern border with Afghanistan is set by the Amu Darya (darya is the Persian word for river) and its tributary the Panj River (Darya-ye Panj), which has headwaters in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007]

Tajikistan has 947 rivers which are over 10 kilometers long. The largest rivers are the Amu Darya, the Syr-Darya, the Zeravshan,, Vakhsh and Panj. More than 200 mineral water springs have been recorded. Among them are the Shaambary, Khoja Obi Garm, and Garm-Chashma, which are used for mineral baths. [Source: advantour.com]

The Syr Darya and the Amu Darya are the two largest and most important rivers in Central Asia. They bring rich soil deposits to agricultural areas. The Syr Darya flows through the Fergana Valley into Uzbekistan, then into Kazakhstan, where it empties into the Aral Sea. The Amu Darya is formed at the confluence of two Pamir rivers—the Vakhhsh and Pyanj—and flows along Tajikistan-Afghanistan border, then the Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan border before winding into Uzbekistan and emptying into the Aral Sea. The Amu Darya and the Pyanj rivers form most of the 800-mile-long border with Afghanistan. Lake Kara-Kul, Tajikistan’s largest lake, is near the China and Kyrgyzstan borders.

The largest tributaries are the Vakhsh and the Kofarnihon, which form valleys from northeast to southwest across western Tajikistan. The Amu Darya carries more water than any other river in Central Asia. The upper course of the Amu Darya, called the Panj River, is 921 kilometers long. The river's name changes at the confluence of the Panj, the Vakhsh, and the Kofarnihon rivers in far southwestern Tajikistan. The Vakhsh, called the Kyzyl-Suu upstream in Kyrgyzstan and the Surkhob in its middle course in north-central Tajikistan, is the second largest river in southern Tajikistan after the Amu-Panj system. In the Soviet era, the Vakhsh was dammed at several points for irrigation and electric power generation, most notably at Norak (Nurek), east of Dushanbe, where one of the world's highest dams forms the Norak Reservoir. Numerous factories also were built along the Vakhsh to draw upon its waters and potential for electric power generation. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

The two most important rivers in northern Tajikistan are the Syr Darya and the Zarafshon. The former, the second longest river in Central Asia, stretches 195 kilometers (of its total length of 2,400 kilometers) across the Fergana Valley in far-northern Tajikistan. The Zarafshon River runs 316 kilometers (of a total length of 781 kilometers) through the center of Tajikistan. Tajikistan's rivers reach high-water levels twice a year: in the spring, fed by the rainy season and melting mountain snow, and in the summer, fed by melting glaciers. The summer freshets are the more useful for irrigation, especially in the Fergana Valley and the valleys of southeastern Tajikistan. Most of Tajikistan's lakes are of glacial origin and are located in the Pamir region. The largest, the Qarokul (Kara-Kul), is a salt lake devoid of life, lying at an elevation of 4,200 meters.

The rivers in Central Asia are often brown and muddy even many hundreds of miles from their sources. This is because the water contains suspended “yellowish-grey marl, or loess” that is very fine and stays suspended in the water for a long time. One geologist wrote these minerals are “formed by the disintegration of porphyry rock carried by the wind off the surrounding mountains in the form of very fine dust” and “it gradually settled and built by the Central Asian plateau.”

Mountainous Areas of Tajikistan

The mountainous regions of Tajikistan are dominated by the Trans-Alay Range in the north and the Pamirs in the southeast. The Pamirs—a mountain ranges that extends to the west of the Himalayas and Karakoram range—and the Pamir Plateau occupies the southeast part of Tajikistan. The Trans-Alay Range in central and northeastern Tajikistan is a southern spur of the Tien Shan — which also cover eastern Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and western China. These ranges contain mountains above 7,000 meters, and huge glaciers like the 72-kilometer-long Fedchenko glacier, which hold more water than the Aral Sea and is the longest glacier in the former Soviet Union.

Mountains cover 93 percent of Tajikistan's surface area. The two principal ranges, the Pamir and the Alay, give rise to many glacier-fed streams and rivers, which have been used to irrigate farmlands since ancient times. Central Asia's other major mountain range, the Tian Shan, skirts northern Tajikistan. Mountainous terrain separates Tajikistan's two population centers, which are in the lowlands of the southern and northern sections of the country. Especially in areas of intensive agricultural and industrial activity, the Soviet Union's natural resource utilization policies left independent Tajikistan with a legacy of environmental problems. [Source: Library of Congress, March 1996 *]

More than half of Tajikistan lies above an elevation of 3,000 meters. Even the lowlands, which are located in the Fergana Valley in the far north and in the southwest, are well above sea level. In the Turkestan range, highest of the western chains, the maximum elevation is 5,510 meters. The highest elevations of this range are in the southeast, near the border with Kyrgyzstan. That region is dominated by the peaks of the Pamir-Alay mountain system. The mountains contain numerous glaciers, the largest of which, the Fedchenko, covers more than 700 square kilometers and is the largest glacier in the world outside the polar regions. *

The highest mountains are found near the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border. Among these are three of the four highest mountains in the former Soviet Union: 7495-meter-high Qullai Ismoili Somoni (formerly known as Pik Kommunizma,or Communism Peak), the highest mountain in the former Soviet Union; 7134-meter-high Pik Lenina, the third highest mountain; and 7105-meter-high Pik Korzhenevskaya, the forth highest. Several other peaks in the region also exceed 7,000 meters.

Other major mountain ranges include the Fan Mountains in the east near the Uzbekistan border. The western third of the country is covered bya a lowland plain bisected to the north by the Gisar, Zeravshan and Turkistan ranges with the isolated Zeravshan valley between them.

Pamirs

The Pamirs is a 800-kilometer-long range made up of very high rounded mountains between 5,000 and 7,000 meters high that stretch across eastern Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan into western China. Known as “The Roof of the World,” "The Foot of the Gods," and "Midpoint between Heaven and Earth," they occupy one of the least explored and most sparsely populated regions of the world. The Pamirs offer some of the most spectacular Alpine scenery in the world but is difficult to get to.

Pamir means "pasture." In some ways the Pamirs are better described as a high plateau with mountains than a mountain range. There are many flat, broad, treeless valleys that are as high as the low mountains and filled with grass. Winding through the valleys are meandering, sometimes swampy rivers, and occasionally an Alpine lake. Between the peaks are large glaciers, including 72-kilometer-long Fedchenko glacier, the longest glacier in the former Soviet Union.

The Pamirs embrace three of the four highest mountains in the former Soviet Union: 7495-meter-high Qullai Ismoili Somoni (formerly known as Pik Kommunizma,or Communism Peak), the highest mountain in the former Soviet Union and Central Asia; 7134-meter-high Pik Lenina, the third highest mountain in the former Soviet Union; and 7105-meter-high Pik Korzhenevskaya, the forth highest. Other landmarks mountains include Revolution Peak and Academy of Sciences Range.

The mountains around Pik Kommunizma are called the Pamir Knot. Geologists regard it as a hub, from which the Himalayas, Karokorum, Hindu Kush, Tien Shan and Kulun mountains branch out. All of these young mountains have been produced by the collision of the Indian subcontinent into the Asian land mass during the past 50 million years.

There are several high pass through the Pamirs, one of which was use dby Marco Polo in 1271. Wildlife in the Pamirs incline Marco Polo sheep and snow leopards. Some yeti stories originated from here. Herders keep sheep, goats and yaks. The winters are long and harsh and the summers are cool. The Mountain-Badakhshan District in the heart of the Pamirs recives only 12.7 centimeters of precipitation a year. The amounts of precipitation decreases as one climbs in elevation not increases as is the case with most mountain ranges in the world.

Glacier Areas of Tajikistan

Tajikistan is one of the most densely glaciated countries in the world. About 50 percent of the glaciers in Central Asia are in Tajikistan. There are more than 8,000 glaciers in the country and they cover an area of 8,500 square kilometers, which is more thatn all the agricultural land in Tajikistan. Comparatively large amount of precipitation and low average annual temperatures created in the mountainous regions of Tajikistan produce ideal conditions for glacier creation. Snow and ice produced in the winter cannot melt during summer and produce snow fields and glaciers. Significant differences in the geography of Tajikistan produce different types of snow sheets, snow fields, large glaciated areas and smaller glaciers. [Source: advantour.com]

The main areas of glaciation are concentrated around the highest Central Asian peaks. The areas around Communism Peak and Lenin Peak comprise more than two-thirds of all the glaciation areas in Tajikistan. In the western parts of Tajikistan the mountain ranges are not high enough. Relatively few glaciers are found in the Eastern Pamirs due to small amounts of precipitation. The largest areas of glaciation are found in the very high Academy of Sciences, Darvaz, Peter the Great, Vanch and Yazgulem ranges. Communism Peak, Eugenia Korzhenevskaya Peak and Revolution Peak are found here.

Massive Fedchenko glacier originates on the slopes of Revolution Peak. The largest glacier in Central Asia and the largest glacier in the world outside the polar regions, it is 77 kilometers long and, with its tributaries, covers an area of 651.7 square kilometers. The upper reaches of the glacier’s tributaries are 7,480 meters high. Its tongue reaches down to 2,910 meters. The glacier ice is 800 meters thick in some places. The ice volume is about 130 square kilometers. To the north-east, Grum-Grzhimailo glacier covers 142.9 square kilometers.

Near Communism Peak, where the Peter the Great and the Academy of Sciences ranges come together, is a complicated system of large radiating plain glaciers and a vast neve massif, known as "The Pamirs neve plateau". To the southwest of Communism Peak is the Garmo glacier which occupies 114.6 square kilometers. To the north-east is Bivachni glacier, which covers 37.1 square kilometers. It is a tributary of the Fedchenko glacier. In the foothills of Communism Peak, in a narrow deep valley, is the Fortambek glacier.

The second significant glaciated area is at the junction of the Zaalai and Zulumart ranges where Lenin Peak is situated. On the slopes of Lenin Peak, a number of glaciers originate. The largest of them are: October Glacier (88.2 square kilometers.), the Great Sauqdara (53.0 square kilometers.) and the Uisu (49.9 square kilometers.).

Fergana Valley

The Fergana Valley is a large, curving strip of land with the Tien Shan mountains to the north and the Gasser-Allay Mountains, a branch of the Pamirs, to the south. Covering 22,000 square kilometers and drained by the upper Syr-Darya river, it is 320 kilometers long and occupies an area about three-quarters the size of Maryland and is so large that it doesn’t really seem like a valley at all. The entrance to valley is a narrow mouth.

The Fergana Valley spreads across northern Tajikistan from Uzbekistan on the west to Kyrgyzstan on the east. This long valley reaches its lowest elevation of 320 meters at Khujand on the Syr-Darya. Rivers bring rich soil deposits into the Fergana Valley from the surrounding mountains, creating a series of fertile oases that have long been prized for agriculture. In the Soviet era, the Vakhsh River was dammed for irrigation and electric power, and factories were built along its banks. Hot summers and frigid winters characterize the climate. The high mountain ridges protect the Fergana Valley and other lowlands from Arctic air masses, but temperatures drop below freezing more than one-hundred days a year.

The Fergana (also spelled Ferghana) Valley lies in northern Tajikistan and region is densely populated. It is separated from the rest of the country by mountains lies at a convergent point of some of the great deserts and great mountains of Central Asia. It is unevenly divided among Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with most of it in Uzbekistan. It is the most populous area in Central Asia, with 11 million people, many of them relatively conservative Muslims. The Uzbekistan section is home to about 10 million people, a third of Uzbekistan’s population. It also contains the region’s richest agricultural land that have traditionally produced melons and vegetables.

The Fergana Valley has been divided in unusual ways between Uzbekistan Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In some cases enclaves of one country are completely surrounded by another country. In general, Uzbekistan holds the valley floor; Tajikistan occupies in narrow mouth; and Kyrgyzstan posseses the highlands around the valley.

The Fergana Valley, for the most part, is a beautiful and charming place filled with melon fields, agricultural villages, apricot orchards, cotton irrigation canals and markets where you can buy Afghanistan opium and traditional crafts. It is also a center of cotton and silk worm production and has its share of Soviet-era polluting industries. There is some oil and gas in the valley. Walnuts are harvested in the hills.

Climate of Tajikistan

In general, Tajikistan's climate is continental, subtropical, and semiarid, with some desert areas and drastic differences according to elevation. The climate is very dry in the subtropical southwestern lowlands, which also have the highest temperatures. The summer temperature range in the lowlands is from 27̊ C to 30̊ C, and the winter range is from –1̊ C to 3̊ C. In the eastern Pamirs, the summer temperature range is from 5̊ C to 10̊ C, and the winter range is from –15̊ C to –20̊ C. In some areas, however, winter temperatures drop to –45̊ C. [Source: Library of Congress, January 2007, March 1996]

The Fergana Valley and other lowlands are shielded by mountains from Arctic air masses, but temperatures in that region still drop below freezing for more than 100 days a year. In the subtropical southwestern lowlands, which have the highest average temperatures, the climate is arid, although some sections now are irrigated for farming.

The average annual precipitation for most of the republic ranges between 700 and 1,600 millimeters. Rainfall in the mountain valleys averages 150 to 250 millimeters per year; at the higher elevations, rainfall averages 60 to 80 millimeters per year. The highest precipitation rate, 2,236 millimeters per year, is near the Fedchenko Glacier in eastern Tajikistan. The lightest precipitation falls in the eastern Pamirs, which average less than 100 millimeters per year. Most precipitation occurs in the winter and spring. [Source: Library of Congress,*]

Tajikistan suffers from water shortages and drought. In 1999 and 2000 there was very little rain and the Amu Darya ran dry. Tajikistan experienced famine and drought for its third year in 2001. Droughts can deal severe blows to the economy. Parched fields with stubble take the place of fields where cotton and wheat normally grow. During severe droughts there is no water to power the hydroelectric dams and even drinking water is in short supply. Health, education and other government services also suffer when the rains don’t fall.

Weather in Tajikistan

The weather in Tajikistan is defined by the mountains and is characterized by great extremes of hot and cold on a daily basis and yearly basis. It can be as cold as Siberia in the winter and hot in the summer but less hot than other places in Central Asia because so much of the country is mountainous. It is also very windy, with fierce snowstorms in the mountains from October through May. In the highlands winds of 50mph are not uncommon.

The mountains are significantly cooler than the lowlands. The north is cooler than the south. The best time to visit the north and west is March to May and September to November. The best time to visit the Pamirs and the Gorno-Badakhshan is June to September. There the winters are long and harsh and the summers are cool.

The winters are bitterly cold in the mountains, tolerable in Dushanbe and mild in the lowland plains. Siberian winds can send the temperature plummeting to well below freezing and snow covers much of country. In Dushanbe the temperatures hoovers around freezing and snow falls from mid November through March. Here the snow tends to fall in squalls and flurries rather than storms although severe blizzards do occur from time to time. The snow on the ground tends to be icy and crusty. In the mountains snow falls from September to June. Nasty blizzards are common. The snow can accumulate to great depths and roads are closed until the snow is cleared away in late spring.

The summers are hot and dry with temperatures varying a great deal depending on elevation. In the lowlands the temperatures may rise above 38 degrees C (100 degrees F). In Dushanbe it is much cooler with the mean daytime temperature in July ranging from 23 degrees to 30 degrees C. It can get cold at night even in the summer. In the mountains the temperatures are often near freezing even in July and August. Spring and autumn are pleasant and the best time to visit. Spring can be rainy, muddy and windy.

Dushanbe gets around 70 centimeters of rain a year (compared to more than 100 centimeters a year in the United States). Rainfall amounts often are defined by location in relation to the mountains. Winds blow primarily from west to east and areas along the windward sides of the mountains receive a fair amount of rain while areas along the leeward sides of the mountains receive little rain. The Mountain-Badakhshan District n the heart of the Pamirs receives only 12.7 centimeters of precipitation a year. The amounts of precipitation decreases as one climbs in elevation not increases as is the case with most mountain ranges in the world.

Most rains fall between November and April. Much of the water for agriculture is provided by the spring melt. The rains in May and June are crucial for agriculture. Often times the rain is spotty. Huge thunder heads blow in, dropping heavy rains in some places and completely bypassing other places.

Extreme Cold and Energy Shortages Create Crisis in Tajikistan

WHO/Europe made available emergency medical supplies for the people who were most at risk as Tajikistan struggled with an energy and cold emergency in the winter of 2007/2008. Night temperatures were as low as -22 ºC; with diminishing supplies of power, water, drugs and food, there was special concern for the health of the elderly, children and pregnant women. [Source: World Health Organization]

In 2007/2008, Tajikistan experienced its harshest winter in three decades with average daytime temperatures at -15 ºC. Water lines either broke or froze, forcing families to rely on melted snow for drinking-water. A major hydroelectric power plant had been affected by falling water levels as rivers froze, threatening energy production, while energy supplies from neighbouring countries such as Uzbekistan had also been reduced. Many rural areas had access to just one or two hours of electricity a day. Wood being used as fuel doubled in price, putting it beyond the means of many people. Heavy snowfall blocked roads in some areas, cutting off or slowing access to critical medical services and markets. Subzero temperatures and water shortages continued throughout the winter.

Prolonged exposure to cold, the use of alternative heating devices at home (gas, kerosene, stoves with wood and charcoal), the lack of running water, and isolation or overcrowding of people harmed the health of the general population. The energy crisis also had a significant impact on already strained health care services, essential drugs and vaccine supplies and access to health care facilities. Vulnerable groups (including pregnant women, children, the elderly and the mentally disabled) were particularly at risk.

These poor living conditions resulted in a higher incidence of acute respiratory diseases, deteriorated hygiene standards, increased incidence of water-borne diseases, the worsening of chronic diseases and an increased incidence of preventable maternal and infant deaths, as well as unsafe deliveries.

Prolonged power supply disruptions were reported in more than 50 percent of health facilities in four major districts of the country – Kulyab, Rasht valley, Kurgan-Tube and Sogd oblast. The water supply was not available in more than 50 percent of the hospitals across the country due to power shortages and cold weather. As part of the United Nations country team, WHO coordinated closely with other international organizations and the government to respond to the crisis.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2016

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