Q&A with Mr. Matthias Leitner, Natural Resources and Agriculture Economist, Asian Development Bank, and Mr. Malte Maass, Climate Change Specialist, Asian Development Bank


Q. Why should an ordinary citizen of Tajikistan think about climate change, and what are the main climate change risks in the country?


A. Climate change is affecting everyone and will impact all aspects of life: health, food, work, leisure, weather, travel, etc. There is no turning back the climate clock how it was a generation ago. The changing climate is not adapting to us, people must adapt to it. Extreme weather shocks will become even more frequent, and everyone needs to learn how to become more resilient.

Tajikistan itself is already strongly affected by the impacts of climate change. Glaciers are increasingly melting, leading initially to an increase in water runoff volumes and a shift in seasonal water availability. Subsequently, runoff volumes will gradually decrease from around 2050 onwards. Combined with more severe droughts and rising temperatures these impacts are posing a significant challenge to Tajikistan’s agriculture as well as energy sector, since most of the electrical energy consumed in the country comes from hydropower.

In addition, severe weather events are increasing. Already today Tajikistan is among the countries with a very high exposure to climate and disaster risks. Floods, mudslides, earthquakes, and extreme weather occurs more frequently. Between 1992 and 2016, disasters affected more than 80% of the population and resulted in $1.8 billion in economic losses. Due to climate change, extreme flood events are projected to increase, resulting in an even higher risk of landslides and mudflows. This could potentially cost many lives and livelihoods. For example, in May 2021, floods in the Khatlon province destroyed over 100 houses, 400 households suffered damages to their properties, and 1,500 households in Kulob needed humanitarian assistance.

The rural population which mainly depends on agriculture is not prepared for these changes and hazards which threaten Tajikistan's long-term socioeconomic development. Decision-makers in ministries, local administrations and farmers need to integrate climate change considerations into their planning processes to respond to changing conditions. Especially vulnerable groups and women in rural areas need support in implementing adaptive measures.


Q. How is ADB assisting Tajikistan to adapt to the impacts of climate change?


A. ADB has a long-standing partnership with Tajikistan. Most recently, ADB is working with the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and relevant government ministries in identifying how the COVID-19 response can be ‘green’ and support low-carbon and resilient projects and interventions. Importantly, ADB is supporting the government to identify potential sources of financing for these initiatives including climate finance sources. Additionally, ADB’s work includes looking at supporting policy and institutional changes to support long-term economic transformation and sustainability of COVID-19 recovery measures. In exploring development pathways beyond COVID-19, ADB’s engagement highlights the need to align its ongoing COVID-19 recovery interventions with green, inclusive and climate-resilient development consistent with its revised nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement on climate change and Tajikistan’s National Development Strategy.

Besides supporting projects in sectors exposed to higher climate risks (e.g., irrigation and water supply) in the Pyanj and Vakhsh River Basins, ADB is also supporting Tajikistan to build better disaster preparedness. Past and on-going projects focus on disaster risk management and building climate resilience. The aim is to reduce Tajikistan’s economic losses due to natural hazards as well as to reduce the adverse effects of climate variability and climate change. In the context, ADB has supported the Agency for Hydrometeorology of the Committee of Environmental Protection to produce timely and accurate forecasting to weather events. ADB also contributed to the development of the “National Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change of the Republic of Tajikistan for the period up to 2030”.

Mr. Matthias Leitner, Natural Resources and Agriculture Economist, ADB


Q. Why focus on the Pyanj river basin, and what are the specific climate change risks in the agriculture sector?


A. The Pyanj river basin is the biggest river basin in the country, and is strategic to the food and nutrition security of the country. ADB has been supporting the development of the river basin since 2007 through multiple projects. The most recent project focuses on strengthening water resource management, modernizing and climate-proof irrigation and drainage infrastructure, and boosting farmers' water use skills. This is expected to have a positive effect on the country’s economy and food security as the basin includes the majority of Khatlon province, which has the largest population (2.7 million) and agriculture production (some 774,000 tons cereal).

The river basin’s ability to provide livelihoods and food security, however, is under immense pressure due to climate change. Rising temperatures are projected to increase droughts and days of heat stress which will lead to an increased crop water demand. This will significantly reduce agricultural yields and farmers’ incomes. Additionally, changes in snowfall patterns and rising air temperature are also likely to affect the river flow that supplies water to agriculture. The reduced regularity and change of river flow will negatively impact irrigation, and less water will be available during the period of highest demand (spring growing season).

If left unmanaged, there will be a substantial decrease in crop and livestock productivity. This is amplified by a lack of awareness, knowledge, and capacity to adopt climate-smart and resilient agricultural practices among rural communities and government institutions. This is putting sustainable development of rural agricultural areas further at risk.

Mr. Malte Maass, Climate Change Specialist, ADB


Q. How is ADB planning to assess the climate change risks in the river basin, and what will the outcomes be?


A. ADB is currently starting to prepare climate diagnostic studies and assessments in the Pyanj river basin. Activities include upstream climate change assessments at the basin and sub-basin level and vulnerability mappings. Stakeholder consultations and capacity building support are envisioned to enhance climate change adaptation planning at a local and government level.

This upstream work will enhance the overall understanding of climate impacts on rural livelihoods, especially on women and marginalized groups, in the river basin. It will also identify areas within the basin with the highest exposure to climate change and prioritize actions to build more resilient communities.

Lastly, this will lead to the identification of a longlist of potential adaptation investment projects that address climate risks as one of their primary objectives. 


Q. How is this approach different?


A. A more strategic and pre-emptive approach is required for increased investments in climate and disaster resilience in the country. The recently developed Pyanj River Basin Management Plan, supported by ADB, will form the basis of more integrated approach to natural resources management in the Pyanj river basin, with consideration for potential climate adaptive interventions.

The new approach will focus on climate change analysis and vulnerability mappings on the basin level, and findings will define the priority scope and activities of the planned investment projects. This will help develop a sustainable investment pipeline, potentially tapping into international climate finance sources.


Q. What kind of investment projects will be developed, and what kind of issues will they address?


A. Detailed project scope will be formulated in the coming months, pending the climate change analysis. Various investment projects will come out of it – focusing on water resources management and on agriculture productivity enhancement. Both projects, however, will go beyond just climate proofing of infrastructure and focus more on building climate-resilient livelihoods. Project outputs and focus will obviously take government priorities into consideration, and will aim to maximize synergies with other key development objectives. ADB is also considering further support to the expansion of the national early warning system and enhancing the preparedness of local communities to cope with climate induced natural disasters.  

Promoting sustainable and green technologies/solutions and the idea of “building back better” will underpin the project designs.