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With a dense network of rivers and some of the world’s highest glaciers, land-locked Tajikistan possesses abundant freshwater resources. Yet the gradual breakdown of the country’s water infrastructure, which dates back to the Soviet era, means that the Tajik population has often only limited access to water.
Due to low water pressure, residents living above the ground floor often have to collect water from taps in their yard. Even worse, some houses are not connected to the water system at all, meaning people have to use nearby standpipes in the streets.
An EBRD loan of US$ 2 million to Khojagii Manziliyu Kommunali (KMK), the state-owned agency responsible for basic municipal services, aims to improve water supply and wastewater management in the cities of Kurgan-Tube, Dangara and Kulob in Southern Tajikistan.
Furthermore, the project is supported by a US$ 4.2 million capital grant from the EBRD Shareholders’ Special Fund and by significant technical cooperation funds. These will ensure that the programme supports sustainable and long-lasting change in the country’s municipal water sector.
A new wave of activities
The EBRD’s engagement in this sector in Southern Tajikistan follows the successful implementation of infrastructure improvements in the city of Khujand in the country’s north. Following the project, the Bank was approached by the Tajik government to continue and extend its programme to other cities in the country.
“Our programme in Southern Tajikistan will have a large impact on the lives of many people who suffer from unreliable water services,” says Catarina Bjorlin Hansen, Principal Banker in the EBRD’s Municipal & Environmental Infrastructure team.
“The projects will secure water supply and improve the related pipe, water treatment and wastewater infrastructure. The most important effect will be that people will have reliable access to drinking water.”
To extend the programme to more remote parts of Tajikistan, the EBRD has to tackle a long list of problems, starting with the generally old and dilapidated water and wastewater facilities, such as those in Kurgan-Tube.
In Dangara, meanwhile, an irrigation tunnel and channel emanating from the reservoir of the Nurek hydropower plant provides the city with water. This system, however, fails to function when the water level becomes too low or the tunnel is closed for maintenance. Even if water is supplied, it arrives untreated.
By contrast, the natural conditions for providing suitable drinking water are excellent in Kulob, the country’s third-largest city. Natural springs and other water resources could, in theory, provide enough freshwater to cover all current and future requirements.
“But technical failures and electricity drops lead to intermittent supply,” explains Catarina. “Even worse, when these failures occur, the water pressure decreases, which means that contaminated water can seep into the pipes from the outside through numerous holes.”
“Furthermore, the city’s wastewater treatment plant requires urgent repair. At present, there are discharges of sewage into the Kuloka river which leads further into the bigger Yakhsu river.”
To address the situation in Kulob, the EBRD project aims to reconstruct several pumping stations, update water intake facilities and clean and reinstate the bioponds of a wastewater treatment plant. Furthermore, the Bank loan will help to install water metres and update internal plumbing, maintenance and laboratory equipment.
These and other changes will significantly improve the quality of life of the citizens of Kurgan-Tube, Dangara and Kulob, both by reducing the risks of water contamination and waterborne diseases and by improving the reliability of supply.
Last but not least, the EBRD investments and the grants provided by the Bank’s donors will support necessary reforms in Tajikistan’s municipal water sector.
The programme in the three cities foresees the introduction a new tariff policy, which will help water companies to cover their operating costs and generate income, while at the same time protecting lower income households. Furthermore, cost reductions, efficiency and transparency measures will improve the water companies’ performance.
The project has been successful and replicated in other parts in Tajikistan. In the country's north, the Bank is helping to modernise the water infrastructure in the mid-sized cities of Chkalovsk, Gafurov, Isfara, Kanibaidam, Karaikkum and Taboshar. The programme has also been extended to Khorog in the Pamir mountains as well as to Gissar, Shachrinav, Somoniyon and Tursunzoda in the central part of the country.
Furthermore, it is expected that this expansion can continue and help even more people to have access to clean water in Tajikistan.
By Volker Ahlemeyer
Last updated 22 March 2012