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Deforestation, health risks of contaminated food and water, and air pollution from road transport among the most pressing environmental challenges for Tajikistan

Published: 25 August 2017

Despite progress made in addressing environmental considerations, deforestation, diseases associated with contaminated food and water, and air pollution from road transport are some of the most pressing environmental challenges in Tajikistan. These are the main findings of the third Environmental Performance Review (EPR) of Tajikistan undertaken by UNECE, which were presented to governmental and other stakeholders on 25 August 2017 in Dushanbe.

The Review recognizes achievements since 2010 in improving the state of the environment. These include:

  • Two facilities for disposal and long-term storage of obsolete pesticides – the Vakhsh site in Khatlon Oblast and the Kanibadam storage facility in Sughd Oblast – have been upgraded. This creates the opportunity to accumulate pesticides from smaller storage facilities within the central ones and to export pesticides for final disposal.
  • Priorities have been identified to address the state of radioactive waste storage facilities through the adoption of the National Concept on Rehabilitation of Uranium Waste Tailings for the period 2014–2024. International donors have begun to implement programmes and projects aimed at reducing the harmful impacts of radioactive waste mismanagement.
  • Progress was achieved in improving access to water and sanitation in line with the Millennium Development Goals. With regard to access to an improved drinking water source, there was a 23.3 per cent improvement in the period 2000–2015, from 60 per cent of the population having such access in 2000 to 74 per cent in 2015. The proportion of the population using an improved sanitation facility increased by 5.6 per cent in the same period, from 90 per cent in 2000 to 95 per cent in 2015.
  • Measures have been taken to protect the country’s biodiversity. The second edition of the Red Book, which describes Tajikistan’s rare and endangered flora and fauna, was published in 2015. Management plans for several protected areas have been prepared, and the area of the Tigrovaya Balka State Nature Reserve was extended by an additional 12,462 hectares. The Tajik National Park was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2013, becoming the first natural World Heritage site in the country.

Whilst the Review highlights progress made, its 82 recommendations specify areas that require further efforts by the Government across different sectors.

Among these priority areas are measures to protect the country’s forests. Forest cover is currently estimated at only 2.95 per cent of the country’s territory. The annual rate of deforestation, caused by intensive livestock grazing and illegal firewood collection, is higher than the natural forest biomass increment and regeneration ability. The Review notes that since 2013, reforestation activities are annually applied to some 2,100 ha, which is not enough. Taking into account the primarily mountainous landscape of the country, the further decline of forests may result in accelerated desertification, landslides, mudflows and other natural disasters.

The Review also draws attention to the adverse impact of environmental pollution on human health. Though declining after 2009, the life-threatening disease typhoid fever is still present. The increasing incidence rates for selected parasitic diseases (giardiasis, ascariasis and enterobiasis) in the period 2005–2014, with infections caused by contaminated food or water, present a further warning signal for environmental public health issues. Another health-related environmental challenge highlighted in the Review is the lack of capacity in chemical incident preparedness and response, as demonstrated by the poisoning of schoolchildren in May 2016 following a school disinsection in the Shamsiddin Shokhin district of Khatlon Oblast.

The Review further highlights the need to address the impact of air pollution from transport. Road transport remains by far the main source of air pollution in Dushanbe and other cities. In 2014, its contribution was more than 13 times higher than the total emissions from the industry and energy sectors. Although vehicle ownership in Tajikistan is still relatively low at 43-44 vehicles per 1,000 people, the average age of the vehicle fleet is around 15-18 years. The existing system of customs import duties and taxes provides almost no incentives for the importation of recent, less polluting vehicles. Customs duties and taxes provide no distinctions based on a vehicle’s engine power, volume, powertrain or fuel (petrol, diesel, hybrid, etc.).

Along with the health and transport sectors, the Review addresses the integration of environmental requirements in other sectors, such as agriculture, industry, energy and housing. The Review underscores that the low status of the Committee on Environmental Protection under the Government is the core reason for insufficient progress with the integration of environmental considerations into sectoral policies and legislation. It recommends that Tajikistan raise the status of the national environmental authority to that of a ministry.

The Review (in English and Russian) and its Highlights (English only) are available online at: http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=46564.

For more information, contact:

Mr. Antoine Nunes
Programme Manager
Environmental Performance Reviews
E-mail: info.epr@unece.org

Note to editors:

An Environmental Performance Review (EPR) is an assessment of the progress a country has made in reconciling its environmental and economic targets and in meeting its international environmental commitments. The EPR Programme assists countries to improve their environmental management and performance; promotes information exchange among countries on policies and experiences; helps integrating environmental policies into economic sectors; promotes greater accountability to the public and strengthens cooperation with the international community.

The third EPR of Tajikistan was financially supported by the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and the German Federal Environment Agency with funds from the Advisory Assistance Programme and by the Government of Switzerland. Two countries have delegated their experts for the Review: Portugal – an expert on water resources – and Finland – an expert on agriculture and environment. The World Health Organization has provided experts on health and environmental issues, and the Joint United Nations Environment Programme/Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Environment Unit has delegated an expert on risk management of natural and technological hazards. The United Nations Development Programme Office in Tajikistan provided organizational support.

Tajikistan is the seventh country reviewed in the third cycle of EPRs, following the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Georgia, Belarus, and Bulgaria.


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