Exploring southern Tajikistan
Returned today to the south of Tajikistan after a day in the capital. Since my return a week ago we have been carrying out a needs assessment in communities throughout the Khatlon region from our base in the town of Shaartuz. The landscapes here are just as striking as the mountain valleys where our assessment started. Massive brown hills rise from the edge of the road. They are deeply etched by erosion, and there is very little vegetation or any other kind of life. In other places rocky plains stretch for miles and have the feel of a moonscape. Lonely concrete bus stands can be seen occasionally, making me wonder when, if ever, someone stood there and waited for a bus. While the three hour trip passes through a few towns and small settlements, for most of the journey we are surrounded by the monumental landscapes on both sides.
With these striking but somewhat desolate landscapes all around, I have to wonder how realistic were the
grandSoviet plans to tame the rivers and irrigate the plains of this region, particularly when many of the Soviet projects no longer work. But then again, in the US we essentially did the same thing in the desert of Nevada and the semi-deserts of California, the only difference being that we have the money to sustain these massive irrigation projects. For our project we will have to be more creative if we are to address the irrigation challenges faced by small farmers without rehabilitating the Soviet systems (which probably isn’t possible).