Integrated River Basin Management in the Tigrovaja Balka

The five-year project “Integrated river basin management  and nature protection in the Tigrovaja balka , Tajikistan, Amudaria basin”, funded by WWF/MFA Norway is completed in June 2012. The project aims to contribute to halting the degradation of floodplain forests (Tugai) along the lower Vakhsh River, in the upper reaches of the Amudarya Basin – and restoration of ecosystems of riparian forests of Tigrovaja balka.

Tigrovaja balka reserveis situated in the Amudaria river basin (upper reaches) – one of the two major catchment basin of Central Asia. Thanks to artificial water regulation, building of huge (Nurek hydropower station) and small dams, natural floods had been stopped and this caused degradation of  riparian ecosystems. Lakes started to get dry, as well as all surrounding forests.

Overall Goal of the project: Provide a model for sustainable management of freshwater ecosystems in the AmudaryaRiver Basin, through facilitating development of integrated river basin management (IRBM),conserving and restoring the tugai ecosystem in the Tigrovaja Balka, and initiating sustainable livelihood projects as well as awareness raising, education and training

There were four main modules of the project:

  • Development of an Econet cluster in the project area, improvement of ecological management (increasing of the area of  protected territories of different status,  establishment of a system of sustainble management both for strictly protected territories, and for the surrounding areas – ecological corridors and buffer zones)
  • Conservation and restoration of the dynamics and biodiversity of the tugai freshwater system of Tigrovaja Balka, surrounding deserts, flagship species
  • Developing strategies for sustainable land-use in the adjacent agricultural area along the Vakhsh River, on which the nature reserve and the wellbeing of the rural community depends – via direct involvement of local communities.
  • Strengthening the civil society and awareness raising

Some intermediate results of the project are presented in our publications:

In order to facilitate socio-economic development of local communities and restoration of riparian ecosystems, a range of measures were required, including improving water management patters for the protected area and the surrounding agricultural lands through implanting water-saving technologies in agriculture and increasing the water supply for the nature reserve. This calls for integrating human needs with nature conservation and developing sustainable water management and land use practices, which satisfy both sides.

The project started and was implemented in a difficult environment with a rural population under severe pressure from poverty, lack of energy (2 -3 hours electricity per day) and a low level of expertise in land use.  Complete restructuring of the Ministry (Committee of Environment) in 2007, and ongoing frequent changes of leading personnel in the government (5 Ministers and Heads of Department over 5 years) and in the nature reserve, caused significant hardships and delays.

The low level of expertise among all stakeholders (farmers, rangers, decision makers) required awareness raising, education and more training. Those components of the project which were less dependente from policy level (especially – regional governments) and could be directly implemented my NGOs were most successful:

  1. survey and development of recommendations for improvement;
  2. hydrological regime of the ecosystems;
  3. ecosystems/flagship species restoration;
  4. ecological education and awareness raising
  5. involvement of local communities,
  6. mass-media work.

Unfortunatly those components of the project for which endorcements on different levels and varias direct political support was needed (new land allocation - proper management) were going slowly with serious delays, although planned results finally achieved.