Tajikistan: Grinding gravel reduces flooding and creates new jobs


Workers at a gravel plant in Tajikistan. Photo: UNDP Tajikistan

In 2010, severe flooding killed more than a dozen people and destroyed 500 homes in Kulyab city, south-western Tajikistan.

“We lost all our belongings, including hopes for a better future as a result of the flood,” says local resident Saidmuhiddin Sharipov, whose home was severely damaged because of the flood.

Although flooding hits the region every year, a subsequent assessment of the disaster by UNDP and the government revealed that one of the causes of the 2010 inundation was a clogged and poorly maintained canal system. Today however, the city’s large gravel plant, which had stood empty and abandoned for decades, is at the centre of a UNDP-supported project that plans to make floods like this a distant memory, while creating new jobs.

Highlights

  • Abandoned since 1991, the plant has been rehabilitated with US $185,000 from UNDP’s Local Level Early Recovery Programme
  • The plant can process up to 50 tons of gravel per day and is creating at least 15 full-time jobs
  • Bricks produced at the plant are in turn purchased by the Government to fortify riverbanks
  • The project is a public-private partnership, with a local company renting the plant from the local Public Organization

Until recently the plant’s colossal machinery and deserted factory buildings were slowly succumbing to rust and mildew. Since 1991, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Tajikistan's subsequent independence, the dilapidated factory had been left largely forgotten. Now, however, the plant is back up and running, using sand and stone in the canal to feed its gravel production.

“We found that the Tebolay canal was filled with sand and stone,” UNDP’s Abdullo Guliev says. “The purpose of this canal was to lower the risk of flooding, but it had been left unmaintained.”

In addition to an immediate cleanup of the canal, a team of experts from UNDP and the government began to look at longer-term solutions to the repeated floods.

“We wanted something sustainable, not just a quick fix that we would have to deal with again in five or ten years,” Guliev says. “This way, the canals will be cleaned regularly. By partnering with the private sector and investing a little in the rehabilitation we can keep the canals clean and strengthen the economy in the process.”

With a US $185,000 grant from UNDP, the plant is now operational, processing up to 50 tons of gravel per day and keeping the canal drained and providing at least 15 full-time jobs in the process.

Besides the immediate benefits, the plant has also boosted the local economy by purchasing equipment from local suppliers and selling gravel and bricks on the market. In addition, precedence has been given in the recruitment process to those who were most affected by the 2010 floods, thereby helping them regain lost livelihoods and homes.

Saidmuhiddin Sharipov is one of those people. Previously unemployed and traveling to Russia for employment, today he works at the newly refurbished gravel plant, earning approximately $372 per month – quite a significant amount in a country where nominal GDP per capita is about $950 per year.

“I am happy that, thanks to UNDP's support, I have found a job in my home city with the same wages that I would earn migrating to Russia for work,” he says.

Wholly owned by the public organization, the plant is rented to a local enterprise, which has agreed to ensure the canals and river are cleared of debris. To further reduce the risks of flooding, the funds collected from rent are invested in buying bricks and other material to fortify riverbanks and embankments.

To ensure environmental protection, the government and UN representatives are also involved in identifying areas where accumulating sediment needs to be removed. This ensures that the canal bed and surrounding land are not damaged by dredging.

“It’s a great initiative,” Guliev says. “With a small investment the plant is creating jobs, lowering the risk of flooding and stimulating the local economy. It benefits everyone.”