Tajikistan, World Bank team up to confront natural disaster risk

The World Bank

Two Tajik women walk away from a bridge in this undated photo. [ARUP/World Bank]

Two Tajik women walk away from a bridge in this undated photo. [ARUP/World Bank]

DUSHANBE -- Faced with a changing climate, Tajikistan will have to adapt -- and soon, according to the World Bank.

Tajikistan has a population of 8.5 million and has a high vulnerability to climate-induced shocks like droughts, flooding, landslides, and more.

By 2050, up to one third of the glaciers across Central Asia are predicted to disappear entirely, dramatically raising the risk of sudden floods from glacier lake outburst. For the country's agricultural sector, which employs nearly 60% of the population, disasters like this are especially devastating, as vital transport networks are washed away, often taking months or years to restore.

In 2015, for example, high temperatures caused massive glacial flooding and mudflows that damaged critical infrastructure, forced more than 10,000 people to evacuate, and knocked out electricity to more than 80% of affected communities.

Rising disaster and climate risk, in addition to high vulnerability to seismic events, is threatening to undo much of Tajikistan's impressive development progress over the last few decades.

Since 1999, Tajikistan has managed to cut its poverty rates in half, and reduce extreme poverty by almost two-thirds. However, the last 25 years have also seen a string of major disasters across the country, collectively causing economic losses in excess of $1.8 billion (15.8 billion TJS) and affecting more than 80% of the population, with the most vulnerable bearing the brunt of these impacts.

To protect Tajikistan's socio-economic gains and make development efforts in the country sustainable, efforts to build climate and disaster resilience are essential.

A resilient infrastructure for sustainable development

With the aforementioned challenges in mind, the World Bank has been partnering with the government of Tajikistan to strengthen critical infrastructure in some of the most vulnerable regions. A new $50 million (440.1 million TJS) project (Strengthening Critical Infrastructure Against Natural Hazards) aims to do the following:

  • Reconstruct and upgrade critical bridges in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province (GBAP) to improve their resistance to impact from flooding and mudflows. In addition to securing key emergency transportation networks, the upgrades will also allow for more fluid traffic and help unlock local economic potential;
  • Reconstruct and reinforce selected river embankments to improve river flow in Khatlon Province, increasing household safety, preventing erosion, and decreasing disruptions to farming activities;
  • Modernise the national crisis management centre and emergency communication systems to enable first responders to rapidly access hazard information, generate timely warnings for at-risk communities, and dispatch emergency services more effectively;
  • Develop a disaster risk financing strategy for Tajikistan to prepare for efficient financing mechanisms for post-disaster response, recovery and reconstruction.

Partnering to reduce disaster risk

The comprehensive project, which is expected to benefit more than 650,000 people, builds on years of partnerships between the government and key development partners to identify priority risks, align with international best practices, and execute strategic investments in resilience.

In 2016, for example, Tajikistan sent experts to Japan to meet with government agencies and with disaster risk management and infrastructure specialists as part of an important knowledge-sharing exercise. Insights from this exchange helped inform Tajikistan's own strategy for strengthening key transport areas throughout the country. The government also worked closely with ARUP, a leading independent infrastructure firm, to ensure that the country's investments are climate-resilient.

Other major partners, such as the UN Development Programme, Aga Khan Development Network, the Asian Development Bank, and others provided key financing and technical assistance that both expanded the scale and shortened the implementation of these interventions, highlighting the shared commitment to quality infrastructure across leading development actors.

To better explore how developing countries can leverage resilient infrastructure, both in the built environment and in nature-based solutions, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the European Union, the Government of Japan, and US Agency for International Development are hosting a special instance of the Resilience Dialogue series on International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction (October 14) alongside the 2017 World Bank/International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings.

[The World Bank Group authorises the use of this material subject to the terms and conditions on its website.]

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