Strained with opportunities in both geographical and administrative, Republic of Tajikistan has been devastated by disasters and extreme weather. Off late, the climate change has exacerbated the frequency of such hazards throughout the landlocked country. During 1997- 2010, disasters killed 1039 lives and damaged more than 1 billion and 560 million Somoni. Analyse this: in 2009, 186 numbers of disasters killed 45 people and 236 numbers of disasters killed 60 lives in 2010. In Sughd region which is the economy hub and food basket of Tajikistan, 33 types of disasters including mudflows, floods, avalanches, torrential rains, heavy snow fall and cold winter, took away 19 lives in 2010. In coming 40 years, such unwanted and unexpected disasters will be increasing in its number due to climate change.
Are we prepared enough to face these challenges? Are the communities in Tajikistan well equipped to have a safe and secure future ahead? “Shall we leave our country”, asks a young man in Kanibodom district which has been eye of several disasters in recent years. But in reality, many young men are leaving and already left to Moscow as labourer for a simple earning.
Interestingly to address such challenge nationally there has been a strategy document called- Disaster Risk Management (NDRM) for 2010-2015- existing enforced by a Presidential Decree 164 since 30 March 2010. Ironically, many citizens, communities and surprisingly district officials are not aware of this Strategy Document even after more than two and half years.
The NDRM has followed the international disaster decade (2005-2015) resolution of Hyogo Framework of Action (HFA) approved in 2005 in Japan by 168 countries including Tajikistan to make world safer from natural hazards. The HFA adopts the core principle to build the resilience capacities of citizens, communities, societies and nations on disasters.
The major objective of the HFA is to reduce disaster losses, in lives and in the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries. If communities are not aware of the NDRM existence, how can the communities be resilient in Tajikistan? Is Republican government serious about to protect citizens from numerous disasters waiting to occur or this is one of such usual Decree to show the world of external aid groups as a progressive one?
‘Every citizens need to possess the knowledge and skill of disaster risk management and thereupon to contribute in building a resilient future Tajikistan and its society’ as written in NDRM is so far a distant mirage.
While the NDRM tries to be comprehensive in all aspects by following HFA, it lacks substantially in its implementation follow up. The ‘business as usual’ has been the course of action since March 2010. In a midterm review report of this NDRM, many objectives have not been met. The reasons for such unattainable objectives are lack of funds.
First of all, the NDRM has not followed with any legal mechanism from the federal government itself. Thus it is confined to only as a document. Merely making responsible for its implementation to Committee on Emergency Situations and Civil Defence (CoES) can’t achieve the desired outcome. Limitation of human resources and financial resources within CoES has so far resulted in minimal awareness dissemination of disaster risk management among the citizens and local governing institutions.
There is an immediate requirement to empower CoES for accelerating the awareness campaign on NDRM with the local district officials including local civil society organisations. The Chairmen of Districts in Tajikistan must accommodate monthly deliberation on NDRM in its headquarters to accelerate the progress of NDRM.
Another major aspect to address the challenge of disasters is to mainstream or integrate disaster risk management and climate change adaptation into development policy, projects and programs in Tajikistan. Sustainable development, poverty reduction, good governance and disaster risk reduction are complimentary to each other.
The excuse of lack of funds for implementing strategy or mainstreaming DRM doesn’t save lives and properties. A disaster throws back the country many years behind of fruits of development especially in Tajikistan. One dollar invested today in disaster prevention saves 25 USD in relief and rehabilitation cost. Mainstreaming DRM and climate change is a thinking process which has to be followed by all ministries and departments in Tajikistan. Limited fund must consider cost effective sustainable programs in Tajikistan.
An expensive flagpole (3.5 million USD) in Dushanbe could have been substituted in integration of DRM program in highly vulnerable disaster prone districts in Tajikistan.
Prior to approval of HFA, it is well understood that all national, bilateral and multilateral development strategies for Tajikistan might not integrate DRM or climate change concerns in respective development portfolio or overall strategies.
However, to screen post 2005 national developmental strategies should demonstrate the integration. The National Development Strategy (NDS) 2006–2015; Second Poverty Reduction Strategy (2007–2009); Third Poverty Reduction Strategy 2010–2012 (approved with NDRM; ADB Country Strategy Partnership Strategy (2010-2014); World Bank Country Partnership Strategy (2010-2013); EBRD Strategy For Tajikistan (2012-2015) and numerous bilateral donor agencies program and projects have not exactly followed the mainstreaming climate change adaptation or DRM. It is distinctly visible that there is a lack of coordination among international donor agencies to address the integration of DRM or climate change in their respective programs or projects.
On the other hand, have all sectoral ministries and its departments followed NDRM by mainstreaming DRM into their respective plans or policies especially health, water, agriculture, environment, urban development and infrastructure or social protection? For example on-going strategy document of ‘Water Sector Reform Strategy for irrigation, drainage and drinking water 2012’ will be a major entry point of disaster risk management.
These trigger if the development projects which are being in pipeline for respective ministries or departments also consider DRM in their project design, appraisal, approval, implementation and post implementation evaluation (within a project cycle).
This is very important entry point of screening of development projects in light of NDRM. The district administration will be the responsible agencies to implement in respective district component of programs or standalone projects. Since, 2010 there have been many such projects being implemented throughout Tajikistan. It is unfortunate that many such development projects were bypassed to include DRM or climate change concerns into the projects. Even after President’s inauguration of Tunnel on October 23, Dushanbe is far from districts (read lack of coordination between federal government and districts governments).
Last but not the least, without participation of communities in decision making process throughout the project cycle in both pre-disaster (preventive) phase as well as post disaster (recovery and rehabilitation) phase wouldn’t result in success of NDRM strategy.
There have many international organisations and national CSOs spearheaded by UNDP, ACT CA are doing their parts to contribute a resilient Tajikistan. People’s organisation ‘Youth Group on Protection of Environment’ based in Khujand has been embarking upon various activities to address disaster mitigation and climate change adaptation activities in the region. Mainly disaster mitigation work includes reconstruction of mud flow channel in Kanibadam and Asht districts, rehabilitation of water outlet system, construction of wall to protect settlements from mudflows. Also, YGPE has been creating awareness and capacity building among the communities and local administration on integration of disaster risk management and climate change adaptation
More devastating environmental hazards are waiting to explode in this part of so-far famous fertile Fergana valley (Sughd Region). Increasing damage of pests, insects, and termites as well severely depleting groundwater level puts squarely the burden to farmers, residents and citizens. Before it become serious, the communities and local government should together plan to address future ecological disasters.
Difficult challenges need difficult choices. We may need to change our water intensive cotton cropping production to revive the depleted ground water.
A strong political will embeds with innovation and skill with participatory development approach will result in sustainable societies in Tajikistan.
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Dr Avilash Roul, Senior Fellow, Society for the study of Peace and Conflict, India.

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