Tajikistan: Country Report for Asian Disaster Reduction Center (February 2006)

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I. Natural hazards in Tajikistan

1.1 Natural hazards likely to affect the country

Tajikistan is prone to many types of natural hazards, including floods, mudflows, landslides (mudslides), epidemics, drought, earthquakes, avalanches, insect infestation and wind storm. About 93% of the country’s area are mountainous, which widely vary in height from several hundred meters to 6000-7000 meters above sea level.

Earthquakes are typical for Tajikistan and represent a substantial threat in many parts of the country, specifically in urban environments like Dushanbe, where potential earthquake magnitude can be as high as 8-9 on Richter scale. Earthquakes in Tajikistan are seriously dangerous, since they cover broad areas and are able to cause a considerable damage to reservoir dams, buildings and communications. According to the Global Seismic Hazard Map (GSHAP, 1999) the whole country is located in the high to very high-risk zone. Here are some examples of catastrophic and the most deadliest earthquakes in Tajikistan: Karatag earthquake in 1907, Sarez earthquake in 1911, Faizabad earthquake in 1943, Hait earthquake in 1949, Gissar earthquake in 1989. During these earthquakes, the fatalities were caused by secondary affects such as landslides, rockslides, mudflows and avalanches.

Secondary affects of earthquakes can cause major economic problems as well. An example of this is the Baipaza (still ongoing) landslide, which developed in Vakhsh river back in 2004. This landslide is causing serious problems for the operation of Baipaza and Nurek Hydro-Electric Power Stations, as well as for irrigations systems.

Another example is the Hait earthquake of 1949, which was 9-10 on Richter scale. This earthquake wiped out number of villages and killed more than 28,000 people. The Sarez earthquake of 1911, caused a major rockslide and covered the village of Usoi with all its residents. The Gissar earthquake of 1989 caused a major landslide, which covered the village of Sharora with all 274 inhabitants.

Some 50 000 landslides have been reported by Tajik Glavgeology in the 1990s all over the republic, including both seismic and non-seismic slides. Seismic landslides triggered by strong earthquakes are much bigger than non-seismic slides and have much more serious consequences. According to these studies some 1500 of landslides/mudslides were identified to threaten settlements and industrial constructions

In Tajikistan floods occur either in spring following heavy rains, or during snowmelt in summer time. Flash floods in narrow valleys are particularly destructive. River beds rise due to the load of silt and stones carried down from the mountains. The South-eastern slopes of Gissar range, Northern slopes of Turkestan range and Southern slopes of Kuramin range are the areas with greatest flood activity, particularly in the basins of Yakhsu,
Varzob, Vakhsh, Zeravshan and Obihingou rivers.

Mudflows are one of the consequences of heavy rainfall, being observed frequently in the foothills and mountainous areas of Tajikistan. Another reason for the occurrence of mudflows can be the damming of watercourses by landslides and glaciers, and the accumulation of loose debris on slopes and in the channels of watercourses behind a dam. Some 85% of Tajikistan’s area is threatened by mudflows and 32% of the area is situated in the high mudflow risk zone. The major mudflows that occurred in Tajikistan were: Garm district the (villages Yaldamich and Navdi) in 1969 and 1998; Pendzhikent in (Shing Jamoat), Tavildara (Langar), Nurek (Navdekh) in 1998.

The major reason of avalanches in Tajikistan is fresh snow formation (60-70%). Most avalanches are observed in February and March. In 1969, extraordinary avalanche activities were indicated in the Western Pamir. The number of days with avalanches exceeding twice the average was indicated in 1976, 1984 and 1987. Heavy snowfalls of 2004, 2005 and 2006 have caused damaged to the infrastructure. 5 people were killed in avalanches within few days in January 2004 and caused over 2 Mio Somoni worth damage to GBAO. In the avalanches of 2005, total number of casualties were 10. During recent avalanches in January and February 2006, a total of 23 people have been killed.

Tajikistan faced its second year of severe drought in 2001. From March through May 2001 hot and dry weather prevailed in the country. The country had lost a considerable part of its cereal crop, with the livestock sector being severly affected.

During the last five years (2001-2005) natural disasters have killed 145 people and have caused a total damage of more than 200 million US Dollars in Tajikistan.

Asian Disaster Reduction Center
ADRC publishes information on behalf of its members.