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Environmental issues in Tajikistan

The environment of Tajikistan suffers from several decades of ecological mismanagement under the Soviet system. Tajikistan was one of the leading suppliers of cotton in the USSR. Pressured to fulfil export quotas, farm managers saturated the land with chemical fertilizers. Harmful levels of toxic pesticides, herbicides, and defoliants are now found throughout the food chain in Tajikistan. Excessive tapping of rivers for the irrigation of cotton crops has caused high levels of soil salinization, which in turn requires more intensive irrigation to maintain crop yields. Irrigation in Tajikistan directly affects the water levels of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, which both drain into the Aral Sea, a large salt-water lake that lies in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The Aral Sea has shrunk to less than half its original size due to reduced inflow from these two rivers since the 1960s.

Climate change:
An increase of air temperature by 2-3°C will likely accelerate process of glacier retreat. It is very likely that thousands of small glaciers will disappear in Tajikistan. Countrywide, the ice cover will reduce by 20%; the ice volume will decrease by 25-30%. Initially, glacier melting will increase stream flow in some rivers and will partially compensate the decrease of stream flow in other rivers. In the mid- and long-term, a catastrophic reduction of water flow in many rivers is expected.

Long dry periods together with high temperatures in spring and summer seasons lead to the intensification of desertification processes in Southern and Central Tajikistan. Uncontrolled deforestation conditioned by lack of energy resources lead to catastrophic scales of those processes.

Agriculture in Tajikistan is at particular risk of severe effects of climate change, where apart from other factors, land degradation and desertification are the typical natural processes. The most damage to agriculture in Tajikistan is occurred in result of such hydrometeorological phenomena as floods, droughts, heavy rainfalls, mudflows, agricultural diseases and etc.

In the outlook, water economy will need more water, especially for irrigation, in view of climate warming and increased evaporation. Water needs for irrigation of basic agricultural crops will rise by 20-30% compared to present climate conditions.

As a result of climate warming, vector-born and other dangerous diseases, including malaria will spread significantly. Alterations in the hydrological cycle will lead to water shortage and an increase of water temperature in the rivers. This fact will favor to the formation of potential choleric and malaria water reservoirs. It is very likely that the rise of extreme summer temperatures will lead to higher infant and adult mortality.