Tajikistan: UN review finds that access to clean water among most pressing environmental challenges

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43774

14 December 2012

Access to clean water and improved sanitation and waste management remain some of the most pressing environmental challenges for Tajikistan, according to a United Nations review of the Central Asian nation’s management of its environment, published today.

Carried out by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the so-called Environmental Performance Review (EPR) of Tajikistan – the second of its kind – covers ten issues of importance to the country related to policymaking, planning and implementation, the financing of environmental policies, climate change, water management, waste management, human health and the environment and biodiversity conservation.

It notes a series of improvements, including significant changes to the legal and policy framework in the area of the environment, as well as challenges that the country is still facing.

It is the second such review of progress made by the country in the management of its environment, with the first having been carried out in 2004. The EPRs are independent, external assessments that are carried out under the auspices of the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy.

Tajikistan has abundant water resources, according to the regional commission. However, due to institutional weaknesses as well as inadequate funding and outdated infrastructure in the water sector, there are multiple challenges in the use and protection of water resources.

The EPR finds that only one third of Tajikistan’s 7.2 million inhabitants have access to chlorinated piped water. Some 30 per cent rely on spring water and the remainder of the population depend on river and ditch water sources. Only five per cent of the population are connected to public sewerage.

The functioning of the water supply and sewerage systems is, moreover, frequently interrupted by power outages, which is also a source of water contamination, the Review finds. Frequent power cuts limit water supply to a few hours per day. Although there has been an overall improvement since 2004 in the quality of drinking water, 15 per cent of samples do not meet bacteriological standards today.

Waste management has been receiving more attention since 2004. Nevertheless, today municipal solid waste collection services are only provided for the urban population, which represents about 26 per cent of the total population. Waste disposal practices require urgent improvement as even in the capital, Dushanbe, the city’s single disposal site does not meet sanitary norms and standards.

Tailing ponds from mining activities also pose a threat to human health in the country, according to the EPR. Approximately 54.8 million tons of waste from past uranium mining operations are still located in unsecured sites in northern Tajikistan, a number of them close to Khujand, the country’s second-largest city.

The Review concludes with a set of 47 recommendations to the country to improve management of its environment, to better integrate the goals of sustainable development into sectoral policies, to promote greater accountability to the public and to strengthen cooperation with the international community.

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