Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems, and for human well-being. It is vital for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare, and productivity of populations.
Yet, more than three million people in Tajikistan still lack access to safely managed water supply services, mostly in rural areas, and even in many urban areas sewerage coverage is inadequate. The economic losses associated with these inadequate services exceed the estimated costs of investments in quality services and infrastructure upgrades—the investment gap to achieve adequate water and sanitation services in Tajikistan is 1.25 percent of GDP versus 4.25 percent of GDP in economic costs.
Water is also critical for the agricultural sector, which employs around 45 percent of the population and contributes to almost 23 percent of GDP. Yet, poor water management and dilapidated water infrastructure have meant that the country has not yet fully capitalized on this essential resource. Irrigated agriculture is also both water and energy intensive. Water and energy systems are intertwined but poorly coordinated, creating ongoing water-energy nexus challenges.
Other countries in the region, and also globally, face similar challenges in effectively managing water resources, and providing adequate services for all of their citizens. With climate change profoundly affecting our economies, societies, and environment, acting on water becomes essential for climate change adaptation and to advance on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the unfolding crisis in Ukraine illustrate how all of us in different countries and regions are interconnected on a global scale. Disrupted supply chains have immediate and severe effects on many vulnerable economies, such as Tajikistan, which is dependent on the import of wheat. The war in Ukraine means high food prices, which puts additional stress on food security, disproportionally affecting the poor.
“Dushanbe Water Process”: a platform for policy dialogue, partnership, and action
With many countries facing similar challenges, the Government of Tajikistan is committed to continue providing a global platform for policy dialogue, partnership and action around water-related issues through a series of high-level conferences, which constitute the so-called Dushanbe Water Process, designed as part of the International Decade on Water for Sustainable Development.
This week, the Government of Tajikistan in cooperation with the United Nations and other partners, convened the Second Dushanbe Water Action Decade Conference from 6-9 June 2022. This year the conference’s focus is on “Catalyzing water action and partnership at the local, national, regional, and global levels” for the water-smart recovery path in the post-COVID world.
The conference brought together presidents, prime ministers, and many others from around the globe to find ways to address major water-related challenges. The conference also served as a platform for soliciting and consolidating inputs in the lead up to the UN 2023 Water Conference.
Over the last decade, Tajikistan has embarked on an ambitious water sector reform. Tajikistan has approved a revised Water Code endorsing the integrated water resources management principles in 2020, and concurrently created river basin organizations. Moreover, the country has enacted the Law on Drinking Water Supply and Wastewater, which enshrines the rights to drinking water as a priority.
While these legislative reforms have laid a foundation for an improved governance framework for the sector, there is still much to do to ensure sustainable services delivery and financing of the sector. Access to sector data, incentives for performance improvement and customer orientation, and improved planning of capital infrastructure investments will be at the core of the next generation of reforms.
Addressing sector inefficiencies and the challenges at the nexus of water and energy can increase agricultural productivity and support broader economic growth, including through increased hydro-electricity generation. This will require modernization of irrigation and hydropower infrastructure, and increased coordination and cooperation in the management of Central Asia’s major rivers.
30 years and counting: Celebrating and expanding action and partnership on water in Tajikistan
In a rapidly changing world, to achieve water security we must protect vulnerable water systems, mitigate the impacts of water-related hazards, safeguard access to water functions and services, and manage water resources in an integrated and equitable manner.
Water plays a critical role in Tajikistan’s economy contributing to the development of the most important sectors. But the country’s abundant water resources must be managed in a coordinated and effective way so that they can significantly enhance Tajikistan’s economic growth and contribute to regional cooperation.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of partnership between Tajikistan and the World Bank Group – a partnership that has made an important contribution to reducing poverty, and promoting water security and economic development in Tajikistan. Together with our member countries, other development partners, the private sector, academia, and civil society, the World Bank remains committed to supporting Tajikistan, and other countries in Central Asia and around the world, to address water-related challenges and deliver on the 2030 Agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals.