Tajikistan

Tajikistan: Interview with Minister for Emergencies

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DUSHANBE, 19 November (IRIN) - As Tajikistan's Minister of Emergency Situations and Civil Defence, Mirzo Ziyoev remains alert to the challenges of earthquakes, recurrent floods and landslides - the most common emergencies in the mountainous Central Asian republic.
In an exclusive interview with IRIN, Ziyoev maintained while this tiny nation of six and a half million was prone to natural disasters, Dushanbe could effectively deal with such calamities anywhere in the country.

QUESTION: Why was this ministry formed and what are its major functions?

ANSWER: In June 1999 President [Emomali] Rahmanov established the ministry through a special order. Before that we just had the committee for the emergency situations. The ministry of emergency situations is involved in saving human lives. Our basic task is to provide the population with help [in emergencies]. For now I can say that we can provide assistance to save human lives in all parts of Tajikistan.

Q: How vulnerable is Tajikistan to natural disasters?

A: Tajikistan is a mountainous country. More than 93 percent of Tajik territory is mountains. In fact, they are high mountains and this geographical feature caused many natural disasters. But for now I can say that we can overcome the consequences of all natural disasters including earthquakes, landslides, mudflows and we can meet all expectations.

Q: How prepared are you for a natural disaster on the scale of the earthquake in Badakhshan province in neighbouring Afghanistan a few years ago that killed many people?

A: Our ministry can effectively respond to all natural disasters. For example, last year, there was an earthquake in northern Afghanistan and the Ministry of Emergency Situations in Tajikistan and Russia provided all kinds of assistance. Again this year in August, after there was an earthquake in Gorno Badakhshan, we were involved in relief and recovery activities to mitigate the consequences of that natural disaster. We also helped in relocating hundreds of people to Bishkent.

I am positive that we can meet any challenge. The President of Tajikistan visited the area and we thank him for providing housing and food to the displaced people in Bishkent.

Q: Do you have an early warning system in the country?

A: Yes we have such a system in Tajikistan. Thanks to international organisations here in Tajikistan we have substantially improved communications and other areas which have contributed to enhancing our capacity in terms of early warning.

Q: Is there any long-term planning to mitigate the affects of flash floods, earthquakes and landslides - three of the primary factors causing natural disasters in Tajikistan?

A: We have long-term projects planned but here I would like to highlight only one of them and that is the project on Sarez Lake. As you might know, the lake was created by an earthquake in 1911, which toppled a mountain into the flow of Murghab river high up in the Pamir mountains.

The level of water is constantly increasing and there is a possibility that the water will eventually overflow the natural dam and people in many neighbouring areas and even neighbouring countries will be affected. I recently visited the area and the situation on the right bank of the lake is becoming worse with a real threat to the population. We are trying our best to contain that threat.

The lake contains some 17 million cubic meters of fresh water and we would like to make available that water to the people of Tajikistan. Sarez probably is one of the cleanest fresh water reserves in the world.

Q: There was a civil war in Tajikistan. To what extent have you recovered from its consequences such as mining and rehabilitation of infrastructure?

A: In general I would say that we have accomplished all that we can.

Q: What are you hopes for the future and how are you working to achieve that?

A: Recently President Rahmanov was elected the head of a special commission for the mitigation of natural disasters. I can say that thanks to Allah we are working hard for our future and hope only for the best now.

[ENDS]

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