Khujand benefits from solid waste management improvement
One of the oldest cities in Central Asia, located along the ancient Silk Road, conquered by the Alexander the Great and incorporated into the Soviet Union, the city of Khujand has witnessed a lot. So has its infrastructure.
Largely hidden from most eyes, waste management systems are a convenience often taken for granted. It rarely merits a second thought until we see what happens when the service is neglected.
Solid waste management was one of those vital public services that suffered in Khujand, the second largest city in Tajikistan, after years of competing needs and decreasing public funds.
“People were burning the waste, because it used to accumulate in large quantities on the streets. The waste collection trucks were not collecting rubbish often enough. This was causing health hazard to all of us,” said Jannatoi, mother to four children.
Urgent need for upgrade
Rubbish dumped at illegal sites over many years posed numerous risks to human health and the environment as well as spoiling the landscape.
The infrastructure shortfalls included a fleet of outdated waste collection trucks; lack of waste containers; unregulated collection points; and an unsafe landfill dating back to 1972 with no adequate equipment for safe disposal of hazardous waste.
Limited expertise and the financial capacity of various administrations meant that they needed to find different methods of funding this municipal infrastructure upgrade.
That is why they turned to the EBRD, which partnered with donors and other financial institutions to cover, through a combination of loans, grants and technical assistance, the costs of repairing the city’s infrastructure.
Tackling problems on multiple fronts
An EBRD loan of US$ 2.5 million to Khujand’s municipal solid waste management company, Khizmatrasonii Naqliyoti Sanitari, as well as a capex grant of another US$ 2.5 million from the EBRD’s Shareholder Special Fund (SSF) have transformed and future-proofed the city’s solid waste management infrastructure.
A major achievement has been the modernisation and extension by a minimum of 15 years of the longevity of the landfill, the first of its type in Tajikistan to comply with EU standards.
The collection of solid waste has also been improved with the provision of new containers, new waste collection points and the procurement of modern and safer collection trucks.
In addition, technical assistance, worth US$ 940,000, for a feasibility study, project implementation, corporate development and stakeholder participation programme was funded by the European Union, the EBRD’s Early Transition Countries Fund (ETC Fund)* and the EBRD’s SSF.
Among other benefits, the project introduced subsidies for low-income households by the city as part of the social protection scheme, a wide public awareness campaign and a reliable information management system to monitor the billings.
The improvements were quickly appreciated by those living and working in Khujand.
“In the past, we would spend a full day on just one trip to the landfill. It used to be difficult to collect the waste as it was spread everywhere. Now people can throw waste directly inside the new containers, which makes our work more efficient - we can do two or three trips to the landfill in a day,” said Ghulomjon Ochilov, a waste truck driver.
With the new solid waste system in place, health and environmental risks are minimised too.
“It used to be dangerous for us and our children to throw away rubbish because of scavenging dogs and toxic substances being released from rubbish piling up. Now, the waste is kept in the containers so the situation has substantially improved. The collection points are much cleaner and the waste isn’t lying around damaging the environment,” confirmed Jannatoi.
A cleaner future
On the horizon is more work planned to improve the quality of municipal services in Khujand, as well as raising environmental standards.
These include the introduction of recycling facilities; the establishment of a new, modern integrated solid waste treatment facility and other landfill infrastructure; and further work on pollution reduction. The donor funding for this phase will be provided by the EU.
“We are very pleased that ultimately it is people and the environment that benefit from this project in Khujand,” said Ekaterina Miroshnik, EBRD Director for Infrastructure in Russia and Central Asia.
“This project has paved the way for our further engagement in the solid waste management sector in the country. In 2017 alone we signed two more such projects in Yavan and Kulob and we plan to roll out a more comprehensive programme to more cities in Tajikistan in 2018. We are delighted to continue our strong partnership with the government of Tajikistan in the solid waste management sector.”
Thanks to the EBRD-guided international backing in place, the populations of Khujand and other cities across Tajikistan as well as other parts of Central Asia can rest assured that the Soviet legacy of inefficient municipal services will not last forever.