Climate Change Profile: Tajikistan

Originally published
View original



Summary Tajikistan is a low-income country with an Int$4,050* gross national income (GNI) per capita and a population of 9.1 million as of 2018 [1]. Tajikistan continues to be the poorest country among the former Soviet Republics [2]. The United Nation’s Population Division projects Tajikistan’s population to increase to about 25 million people by 2100 [3].
Agriculture is the second largest sector of the economy, accounting for 19% of the country’s GDP of 7,523 billion USD and 51% of its employment in 2018 [4]. While the agriculture and livestock sector dominates the Tajik economy, only around 30% of the country‘s total land area is classified as agricultural and 7% as arable. Of these agricultural lands, 81% consist of rainfed pastureland [5]. Of the permanent cropland, only 68% is being irrigated which makes Tajikistan the Central Asian country with the lowest irrigated land to population ratio [5]. Moreover, cotton, the country’s most important cash crop, as well as other primary agricultural products such as fruits and vegetables are all water-intensive crops that withstand the current arid climate conditions; therefore, Tajikistan’s agriculture is heavily dependant on irrigation [6]. This situation partially accounts for Tajikistan’s high susceptibility to the effects of climate change. This vulnerability is further enhanced as remittances, primarily from migrants working in Russia, accounted for approximately 31% of Tajikistan’s GDP in 2018 [7]. These remittances make Tajikistan one of the countries most economically dependant on external factors and vulnerable to global market fluctuations. In response to this double challenge of a high vulnerability to outside forces and the projected increase in population size, the government intends to accelerate Tajikistan’s industrialization [8]. This industrialization is further facilitated by a planned increase in energy generation capacity from its currently installed 5,400 MW to 10,000 MW by 2030, 90% of which will be through hydropower plants [9]. Since hydropower is important for Tajikistan’s economic development, so is its energy security which is particularly vulnerable to climatic and hydrologic variability and the effects of climate change such as rising temperatures, droughts, and storms [10]. It is estimated that the cost of environmental degradation and climate change will reduce the GDP per capita by up to 15% by 2100 [11].
Some of the ways that the changing climate is already negatively affecting the economy, society, and ecosystems the country are through the accelerated rate of soil erosion caused by extreme weather events, deteriorating water availability and quality from increasing glacier melt, the loss of biodiversity, among other factors [11]. Extreme weather events (such as floods, droughts, avalanches, and landslides) regularly destroy land, crops, infrastructures, and livelihoods. In 2010, annual losses from climate-induced extreme weather events were estimated at 600 million USD (4.8% of Tajikistan’s GDP) and correspondingly, the average annual losses for the period between 1996 and 2015 is estimated at 7.4% of GDP [13]. These losses indicate the need for immediate adaptation activities. The most common impacts are those of land degradation and the erosion of fertile topsoil as well as the impacts on infrastructure due to extreme weather events like mudflows. Additionally, the population’s health is already negatively affected by climate change. The combination of the increasingly erratic frequency and increased intensity of extreme weather events, as well as the change in the hydrological cycle, is reducing agro-pastoral productivity which majorly impacts the food and nutrition security [13] and contributes to biodiversity loss. The higher temperatures combined with higher levels of flood-related water contamination are projected to further augment the risk of infectious disease outbreaks and increase the risks of water and foodborne diseases such as gastrointestinal infections [15].
Simultaneously, much of the country’s health care infrastructure is in a precarious state. Most rural medical institutions and rural schools are lacking proper sanitation and water facilities which is in part why access to adequate health care is considered limited to the urban middle and upper classes. This situation accounts for how Tajikistan is among the Central Asian countries with the weakest health care systems. This situation is further compounded by the high susceptibility of many of its health facilities to the effects of extreme weather events [13]. Considering the high level of agreement around the projected increase in temperature and the change in precipitation patterns in Tajikistan, it is almost certain that climate-induced impacts will increase accordingly.
Tajikistan’s relatively low level of socio-economic development, its inadequate infrastructure, as well as its high dependency on climate-sensitive sectors make the country extremely vulnerable to the risks associated with climate change and related climate-induced extreme weather events.