Land in motion
The news today:
Officials in Tajikistan say the death toll from mudslides and floods that devastated the southern regions late last week has risen to 24.
The Emergency Situations Committee said Monday the floods have caused tens of millions of dollars in damage. Officials say 10 schools, seven hospitals, 27 bridges and 187 kilometers (112 miles) of highway have been destroyed. At least 20 people are feared missing.
Local residents say the number of actual casualties from Friday’s floods may be higher than the official tally as many have buried dead relatives without notifying the authorities.
Thousands of hectares (acres) of grain and cotton fields have been ravaged by the flow of debris — a crushing blow for a country whose economy is heavily dependent on agriculture
Tajikistan is a deforested country. The demand for firewood to fuel stoves in the wintertime and the effects of the ubiquitous goats and sheep on the hillsides has made the country very vulnerable to landslides, mudslides and floods, often triggered by melting snows combined with spring rains. Sometimes a landslide will block a river temporarily, then release a deluge when the earth gives way. The relentless effects of the water are everywhere – I look out my office window at a deep and ever growing ravine across the river. Less than 50 km away, three hectares (more than 7 acres) of farmland dropped 100m (300 feet) into the river overnight, taking part of a road with it – fortunately no one was on this land at the time.
Planting trees on the hillsides would help if they are protected from roaming livestock. Stone retaining wall help to protect the roads (being built now by Chinese contractors), but in the end the earth often overwhelms these walls. It’s a big problem, and will take a determined, long-term effort to solve. Until that happens, people just try to stay out of the way of the constantly moving land…