Wed 31-05-2023


Upper Pyanj

The mountain forest is highly dissected landscape in combination with steppes and alpine meadows. Practically occupies up to 40% of the country’s territory at altitudes of 1,700 – 3,200 m above sea level. This type of landscape has the highest biological productivity along with floodplain tugai. Over 40 species of mammals, more than 130 species of birds and other animals live here. About 80% of summer pastures fall on this territory. Plain plots are used for planting potatoes. It should be noted that in recent years woody vegetation has been cut down everywhere, right up to its complete destruction.

The high-mountain desert landscape occupies the vast territory of the Eastern Pamirs at altitudes of 3,500 to 4,500 m above sea level. Much of this territory is used as distant pasture. Untouched areas include about 60% of the area inhabited by the snow leopard, Pamir sheep. Every year, rare species of birds, including Tibetan sandgrouse and bar-headed goose, come here to spend summers. The unsystematic spontaneous automobile roads near settlements and lakes cause significant damage.

Lower Pyanj

The floodplain tugai forests are located in the deltas of the rivers and on the lowest parts of the territory at altitudes of 300-900 m above sea level. In terms of biological productivity and diversity, they are the richest and have over 600 quintals of biomass per 1 ha. They are of great importance as habitats and wintering of wild animals and birds, especially for the species in the Red Book. In the project area, their small fragments, up to 200 ha, along the banks of the Pyanj River have been preserved.

The sandy-desert belt with semi-timber thinned vegetation. It occupies elevated parts of the floodplains of the Pyanj River at altitudes of 400-600m above sea level. By biological productivity, they are hundreds of times lower than tugay and in most cases are used as pastures for farm animals. They are also the habitats of many species of reptiles and wild animals in winter.

Mountainous Area

The mountainous areas provide better conditions for livestock breading with natural forage compared to the river valley. Significant pastures in the mountains create favorable opportunities for cattle breeding. In the Pamirs, where only 3% of the population lives, there are more than 5% of the country’s cattle population and 11.2% of sheep and goats. Nowadays, to a large extent, the provision of livestock farming with fodder (concentrated feed, rough feed and succulent) comes at the expense of rainfed agriculture, as well as mountain and foothill pastures, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Pasture Area and Fodder Stock

Summer Spring-Winter Winter Year-Round Total
Pasture area (thousand ha)
GBAO 410 257 667
Forage stock, thousand ha
GBAO 189 33 222

Natural vegetation types used for pastures are listed in Table 2, giving typical yields for grazing animals.

Table 2: Pasture – Vegetation Types

Type of vegetation and pasture Area (ha) Ground phyto-weight (q/ha)
Total weight including eaten weight
Summer pastures
Meadow (Alpine meadows) 170,000 25 8-12
Desert 300,000 0,1 0.3-0.5
Steppe and desertificated 420,000 10 5-9
Autumn-winter-spring pastures
Desert highlands 330,000 0,8 0.2-0.5
Cryophilic meadows and sub-swamps 100,000 12 5-10

Lowland Pastures

The largest area occupied by pastures is located in the Khatlon region 1,229,000 ha. Low-grass semi-savannah pastures of thick-column sedge, bulbous bluegrass and numerous ephemers occupy the piedmont plains and low adyrs of Southern Tajikistan at altitudes from 380 to 800 m above sea level. The productivity of dry above-ground mass of bluegrass-sedge pastures varies greatly from year to year – from 2.0 to 22.3 q / ha (gross stock).

The average yield over the 40-year observation cycle was 7.8 centers/ha. Due to extensive use and drought, the entire territory of low-grass semi-savannah pastures is severely degraded. The main indicator of pasture digression is the change in their vegetation.

Badakshan Water Resource Zone

The upper basin mainly comprises the Pamir mountains, an area of sustained high altitude. Climatologically the Pamir is divided into the Western (25,700 km2, this is approximately 40% of the Pamir territory) and the Eastern Pamir (a vast highland plateau of 38,000 km2).

The Eastern Pamir characterized by a sharply continental climate with cool summers and severe winters with little snow. The duration of sunshine here is over 8 hours per day on average. The winter in the Eastern Pamir is very severe, with an average January temperature of about -200С, and the absolute minimum can reach -50°С. Summer temperatures are also low. The July temperature at altitudes of 3,600-4,000 m ranges from +8 to + 12°С. Precipitation in the Eastern Pamir falls evenly throughout the year, but their total amount is very small (120-150 mm).

The rivers of the upper basin flow year-round and lie in deeply-incised valleys. Slopes to the rivers are steep and unstable, with rock-falls and mud-slides adding considerable sediments to the rivers. These steep valleys offer very limited opportunities for habitation or farming, meaning communities are widely spread, and isolated in winter months. Vegetation does not grow on the hillsides and mountain tops, only in isolated pockets where slopes become flatter, which most frequently occurs on the valley floors. The rugged scenery of this area offers considerable scope for tourism, if the area were more accessible.

Middle and Lower Pyanj Water Resource Zones

The middle and lower Pyanj has major tributaries draining lower lands to the north and west of Kulyab through the Kizilsu river system, as well as mountain streams contributing flow to the main Pyanj River through small direct inflow to the main river, and significant flood-plain areas in the lower system where waters of the river are used to support irrigated agriculture in the Farkhor-Hamadoni area and in the Pyanj area.

The catchments of the Kizilsu and its tributaries drain the mountains of the area to the north and east of Dangara, and the mountains to the north of Kulyab. This area has significant snowfall in the winter but is warm in the summer. Above-zero temperature contributes to the beginning of the active growing season of plants, is maintained for up to 250-300 days per year in the lower areas. The duration of the frost-free period is from 260 in the lower part, but only 90 days in the upper part of the catchment. The period with air temperature above 10°C in the valley part is 250-300 days. In the hottest months, the absolute-maximum temperature in the valleys rises to 45-47°C, and above 2,000 m above sea level it is only up to 30°C.

The main Pyanj River flood-plain there are similar areas used for irrigated agriculture where land is suitable – notably in the fan area formed around the confluence of the Kizilsu and Pyanj Rivers (the Hamadoni-Farkhor area) and the Pyanj floodplain above the confluence of the Vaksh and Pyanj Rivers.


  1. The forests of Tajikistan with a relatively small area are extremely heterogeneous: they consist of 8 florocenotypes. The most prevalent are 5 florocenotypes – broad-leaved mesophilous forest, or mountain deciduous forests, hard-leaved xerophilous light forest, or shibliak, small-leaved microthermous mountain forest, or light wood, juniper forest, tugai forest. The dendroflora of Tajikistan is represented by 268 species of trees and shrubs. Hard-leaved xerophilous forests are the richest in species: there are 89 species. Small-leaved mountain forests or light forest on the second place by species richness: of the 57 species in the composition of this florocenotypes, the tree species account for 42 species. In the third place are broad-leaved forests, or black forest, where 45 species of dendroflora. In almost all florocenotypes, shrubs prevail over tree species. There are 64 species of shrubs in shibliak, 29 species in deciduous forests, 15 species in the light woods, 17 species in the microthermic juniper forests. Some florocenotypes consist only of shrubs.
  2. Broad-leaved forests are communities dominated by broad-leaved deciduary mesophytic, mesothermal and microthermal trees. The annual rhythm of this type of vegetation is divided into a period of long summer vegetation with several aspects and a period of winter dormancy. In Tajikistan, broad-leaved forests are represented by the following species: Juglans regia, Malus sieversii, Acer Regeli, A. turkestanicus and Р1atanus оrientalis.
  3. The main massifs of broad-leaved forests are common from the Gissar to the Alai ranges, along the slopes of the Peter I, Vahsh, Hazratishoh and Darvaz ridges at altitudes of 1000-2300 m.
  4. Maple forest formations (Acer spp.) do not form large continuous massifs, they alternate with shrubs, with other types of forests and with meadows in the upper part of the greenbelt. In the lower part, Celtis caucasica and Amygdalus bucharica rocks are usually mixed with them, and in the upper part – Juniperus. Here are traced several of the most typical types of maple forest. The Р1atanus оrientalis formation in the Gissar-Darvaz mountain ranges is located on a small area and in stripes along the rivers. It is densely closed forests (0.9-1.0) with tall trees. The Juglans regia formation is widespread in the Gissar-Darvaz mountain ranges and in other mountain areas of the country. Mesophilic Juglans grow on the northern, well-moistened slopes, having a greater density of leaf canopy (0.7-1.0) and high stems (15-25 m).
  5. The most characteristic species of them are Juglans, Impatiens praviflora and Poa nemoralis. In more rarefied plantings appear Lonicera nummulariifolia, Rosa canina. In the walnut forest near the waterbody is usually grows Rubus caesius. Hazel Aegopodium tadzhikorum also belong to the same group. Umbelliferae walnut forests are also widely represented. The Malus sieversii formation is widespread throughout the Gissar-Darvaz mountain range and is sometimes found in the north of GBAO (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region), its natural area approaches the area of Juglans regia. Apple trees form small groves mixed with Juglans regia, Prunus sogdiana, Crataegus turkestanica.
  6. Tugai is a combination of impassable floodplain vegetation and jungle with powerful reed thickets (Phragmites) and loop lakes. They represent a unique complex of wildlife in the zone of dry subtropics. At the beginning of the 19th century, the area of floodplain-tugai forests was about one million ha. However, due to the development of these lands for agricultural crops, mainly for cotton, the area of tugai has been greatly reduced and now amounts to about 120 thousand ha, i.e. over a hundred years, the area of tugai has decreased by more than 8 times.
  7. The tugai vegetation is represented by the following species: Phragmites communis, Saccharum spontaneum, Erianthus ravennae, Typha angustifolia, T. Laxmannii, T. Minima, Imperata cilindrica, and some other representatives of the species from the families of Carex, Butomus, Scirpus, Calamagrostis. Along with Phragmites, salt-tolerant and drought-resistant species grow on highly saline soils – Aeluropus litoratis, Glycyrrhiza glabra. Where the groundwater level is at a depth of 1-2 m, the tree layer represented by tree species Populus diversifolia and Elaragnus angustifolia, and shrubs Tamarix romosissima, Lycium ruthenicum, Halostachys belaneriana, etc.
  8. Small-leaved forests are communities dominated by small-leaf deciduous mesophytic microthermal trees. These forests are common in the floodplains of all mountain rivers, across all ridges from the level of 1,500 m to the upper boundary of the forest belt. Depending on the altitude, small-leaved forests are represented by tree species from the families Betula, Populus, Hippophae rhamnoides, Fraxinus. Among the tree plantations are often found interspersed with thickets of shrubs and meadow vegetation of various types. Birch forests (Betula spp.) are widely represented among the floodplain forests of the middle mountains of Tajikistan. They grow as groves or form mixed forests with tree species from the Populus, Hippophae rhamnoides, or Juniperus families. In Tajikistan, there are 26 species of the family Betula.
  9. The Hippophae rhamnoides formation and independent and mixed stands created by it are widespread throughout Tajikistan in the floodplains of mountain rivers, starting at an altitude of 500 meters, and rise to the lower border of highlands (3,700 m). Hippophae rhamnoides is a small tree or shrub that grows only in conditions of constant flow-through moisture, most often in fresh alluvium. The Populus pamirica formation is also a floodplain plantation confined to the pebbles of all the Western Pamir rivers, but nowhere does it occupy large areas due to frequent cuttings; the absolute heights at which this formation occurs are approximately from 2,000 to 3,000 m.
  10. The density of canopy of these forests reaches 0.5-0.7. The structure of forest stand includes Betula turkestanica, Salix schugnanica, and often Hippophae rhamnoides. The Fraxinus potamophila formation is common for floodplain parts of the valleys in the lower part of the middle mountains. Salix are found in the floodplains of mountain rivers and especially in the Western Pamir at levels below 3,000 m.

Impact of Forests on Water Resources

  1. Forests have a positive effect on many aspects of water supply. As a result of the interception of precipitation by vegetation, evaporation of moisture from vegetation, transpiration of soil moisture, water in the fog and the process of water infiltration into the soil, forests affect the volume of water available. By maintaining and improving the soil’s infiltration and water holding capacity, they affect the temporal regime of water supply.
  2. However, the most important aspect is that forests provide high quality water. By stabilizing the soil, forests minimize the risk of erosion and thereby reduce sedimentation, which reduces water quality. In addition, by detaining sediment and pollutants originating from other types of land use and activities in elevated areas, forests can protect water bodies and watercourses.
  3. In the future, climate change and the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events can have a significant impact on hydrology and water resources and possibly lead to disasters such as landslides, floods and droughts, and forest cover can be a limiting factor. Research has shown that proper maintenance of forest ecosystems that have been damaged and degraded, and their restoration can play a protective role and mitigate the effects of climate change.


  1. In the highlands of Tajikistan, huge reserves of snow and ice are concentrated. The boundary of perpetual snow lies at an altitude of 3,500-3,600 m above sea level in the west and rises in the east to 5,000 m above sea level. The main reasons for this are the features of the relief and alimentation of glaciers. There are currently 8492 glaciers in the country with a total area of 8,500 km2, which exceeds the total cropland area of Tajikistan ( about 6% of the entire territory).
  2. All the glaciers of Tajikistan are divided into two types – kettle-hole (corrie) glacier and valley glacier. The first ones are fixed rounded ice clusters, and the second ones are distinguished by an elongated shape and ability to move. The usual speed of their movement is 0.3-0.6 m per day. Modern glaciers are mainly concentrated in the northern and western parts of the Pamir. The maximum development of modern glaciation is in the river basins of the Pamir. Especially a lot of glaciers falls on the catchment area of the Muksu River, where their total area over 2,000 km2.
  3. Figure 1 shows the largest glaciers of Tajikistan adjoin the highest ranges: the Academy of Sciences, Darvaz, Vanj, Yazgulem and Peter the Great. The largest glacier of Central Asia, Fedchenko Glacier, originates in this area. More than 50 tributaries flow into it, most of which are considered large and exceed 25-30 km2 in area. The Fedchenko Glacier covers over 650 km2 and is over 77 km long. The average thickness of ice is 800 m, and the volume of the glacier is 130 km3. In addition to the Fedchenko Glacier, the Groom Gruzhmaylo, Medvezhiy, Garmo and Bolshoi Saukdara Glacier stand out for their size. The length of each of them exceeds 25 km. The Groom Gruzhmaylo Glacier belongs to the Bartang river basin, its area is 143 km2.

Figure 1: The Main Glaciers of Tajikistan


  1. In terms of natural and geographical zones, the Pamir geosystem accounts for more than 80% of the glaciation area of Tajikistan. Here there are 7 glaciers over 20 km long each. On the territory of the Pamir, there are about 5.5 thousand glaciers, and their total area exceeds 5,400 km2, which is 8.5% of the entire territory. The ice volume in the Pamir glaciers estimated at 360 km3. The key features of these main glaciers are summarized in the table below.

Table 3: Glaciers within the Upper Pyanj Basin

Name of the rivers Number of glaciers Glacier area km2 Glacierization % Volume km3
Ice Annual flow
Verkhniy Pyanj 103 53.0 0.8 0.99
Muksu 1,004 2,094.5 32.5 188.3 3.03
Markansu 144 159.0 22.1 6.3
Kyzylsu 280 647.9 6.6 54.0 2.26
Surhob 682 401.1 2.9 8.49
Vanch 291 353.9 17.2 15.5 1.60
Yazgulem 269 313.3 16.2 13.2 1.14
Bartang 269 1,082.9 9.8 72.4 3.58
Murgab 879 560.8 3.4 12.9 0.52
Gunt 1,349 634.2 4.6 20.7 3.27
  1. One of the key environmental issues in the project area is the degradation of the glaciers – the reduction of their area and volume. The principal reason for this phenomenon is the climate change – increase in air temperature due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.


  1. The aquatic biodiversity of the Pyanj River is limited by the sediment load and turbidity of the waters of the river and its tributaries. It is reported that biodiversity has decreased significantly since the beginning of accelerated agricultural and industrial development in the 1950s, as a result of habitat loss (dams and water intakes), deterioration of water quality (salt and other pollutants), and the introduction of species from other river systems (Pavlovskaya L. 1995).
  2. The diversity of fish species in the Pyanj River include Amudarya large shovelnose (Pseudo scaphirhynchus kaufmanii), sturgeon, listed in the Red Book. Other species of fish that are permanent inhabitants or migrate through the river. include various species of lysach (Aspioluciusesusesocinus), marinka, trout (rare), carp, bream, catfish.
  3. Near the water intake of the Chubek Canal there is an abandoned fish farm on 60 ha, which functioned during the Soviet era. Here were bred such species of fish as carp, grass carp, catfish and snakeheads.
  4. The management of fish resources in Tajikistan is carried out by the Law on Fisheries, Fisheries and the Protection of Fisheries. 2013 The law introduces a system of quotas for fishing, which are approved by the authorized state body in the field of fish farming in coordination with the Scientific and Commercial Council for Fisheries, Fisheries and Fisheries Resources.



  1. The geology of the basin is shown in a map available at the Tajikistan Geoportal at This map shows the Pyanj Basin very largely comprises low permeability rocks, meaning few extensive aquifer systems in the basin, and so groundwater is largely difficult to abstract for extensive use. Where significant aquifers do exist, it is in valley sediments, notable in the Kulyab/Vose districts, and in the floodplain areas of Pyanj district and Hamadoni/Farkhor districts.
  2. The FAO Aquatstat database estimates some 19% of all water use in the country is from groundwater. This is largely for drinking water purposes. In the Pyanj Basin this will be lower, because groundwater conditions are significantly more difficult than in other parts of the country.
  3. The Head Department Geology of Main Department of Geology under the Government of Tajikistan has responsibility for storage of information relating to the 10,000 exploratory boreholes and water wells drilled across Tajikistan, and offering technical advice relating to this data.
  4. Most water supply systems installed in the Pyanj Basin use groundwater where such resources exist, avoiding issues with the reliable quality of surface water bodies, and the sediment content of flowing surface water systems. The productivity of such wells is reliable enough for populations up to several hundred persons per well in the lower part of the Pyanj Basin, however:

Groundwater can have poor mineralization with a depth below 3 m;

The Kulyab zone (valleys of the Yakhsu and Kyzylsu rivers) characterized by the presence of groundwater of different chemical composition and salinity. Groundwater here is estimated at 1.4 km3/year. From mountain ranges and near the salt domes of Khoja Mumin and Khoja Sartez, salty waters with a mineralization of up to 5 g/l flow into the valley.

  1. There also exist geothermal and mineral waters within the upper Pyanj Basin, and these have been exploited in some locations for spa facilities, and for tourism. These waters typically travel from depth through fracture zones to allow emergence at the surface. Such waters have high mineralization and some not suitable for consumption.

Main Soil Types

  1. The soil cover of Tajikistan is extremely variegated. Moreover, high-altitude soil belt is clearly expressed, which is caused by sharp differences in height. Four belts are presented:

plain-low-mountain, mainly with sierozem soils;

medium-mountain, with mountain brown soils;

high-mountain, with high-mountain meadow-steppe, steppe, desert-steppe, zangoviy and desert soils;

nival, with marl soils among glaciers, snowfields and rocks.

  1. The main soil type of the lower belts is sierozem, among which there are three subtypes:

Light sierozems formed in a dry, hot climate, have poor vegetation cover, contain little humus, are rich in lime, and often contain easily soluble salts. Under certain conditions, they are subject to secondary salinization. These soils are common in the valleys of the Syrdarya River, the lower reaches of the Pyanj, Vakhsh and Kafirnigan rivers at an altitude of 300-600 m and above.

Ordinary sierozems contains slightly more humus and is also rich in lime. They are less prone to salinization. The sierozems occur in the Yahsuiskaya, Kyzylsuiskaya, Yavansuiskaya and other valleys and on the Dangara Plateau at an altitude of 600 to 900-1000 m.). At more higher altitudes, due to increased precipitation and enrichment of vegetation cover, ordinary sierozems turn into dark ones (Gissar Valley, Zeravshan Valley, etc.).

Dark sierozems are the main irrigated fund of the country’s lands. Under the influence of many years of irrigation and processing, they acquired the features of highly productive cultivated soils. The middle mountains in the country are occupied by mountain brown soils, which can be traced on the slopes of ridges at altitudes from 1,600 m to 2,900 m.

  1. Figure 2 indicates the location of the main soil types in Tajikistan and Figure 3 shows the soils in the Pyanj River Basin.

Figure 2: Soils of Tajikistan

Figure 3: Soil Map of Pyanj River Basin

Soil Erosion

  1. The loss of soil creates a range of problems within the Pyanj Basin, including reducing soil depths and soil fertility in agricultural areas, and blockage of drainage channels and other locations in areas where the removed soil is deposited. Catastrophic soil movements (landslides) can occur on the steep slopes and following rainfall. There are also extensive areas of loess soils where water movement through the soil can rapidly erode large volumes of the soil creating extensive gullying.
  2. Hillside soils become unstable when wet, and because slopes are naturally very steep in the basin, there is a great vulnerability after heavy rainfall. The presence of trees, with deep roots to bind the soil can reduce the risk of slope failure, but there has been extensive removal of trees from slopes close to centers of habitation.
  3. Hillsides used for livestock pastures are generally overgrazed, reducing the depth of grass roots and thus the binding of the top layers of soil. Compaction of the soil through the impact of the animals’ hooves also reduces soil permeability, and thus soil moisture remains higher following rainfall reducing slope stability. Improved drainage of pasture hillsides can improve slope stability.
  4. In cultivated lands there is also a problem with loss of soil, with surface drainage systems within the farms filling with soil and reducing drain capacity. Improved cultivation practices is needed to reduce this problem, as well as care over how surface runoff is controlled at field level. Loss of soil from farmland creates problems of loss of soil nutrients and generally adversely affects soil fertility.


  1. Agriculture is the dominant occupation in rural Tajikistan, and vital to the economy of rural areas. Agricultural activity is restricted by topography in the country, with extensive parts unsuitable for agricultural activity, and still more areas only suitable for low-grade pastures and animal husbandry activities. Agronomy is only possible in the valleys, and there is limited scope for expansion as in many parts of the basin all potential land for agriculture is already being used.
  2. According to the CIA World Factbook some 6.1% of Tajikistan is arable, with 0.9% used for permanent crops (orchards), 27.7% permanent pasture and the remainder unsuitable land.
  3. For most crops, irrigation water is needed for satisfactory yields. Some lands that have been cultivated in the in the past (during the Soviet period) benefitting from use of water lifted through hundreds of meters now have irrigation water distribution systems that have thoroughly fallen into disuse and are unlikely to be able to be irrigated in the foreseeable future.
  4. The raising of livestock is a very important element of agricultural activity in the basin. While irrigated crops include fodder crops, a lot of the nourishment of the animals is obtained through use of pasture lands that might be distant from their source village.
  5. The key irrigated crops in the Pyanj Basin are cotton, wheat, maize, melons and vegetables, fodder and oilseeds.
  6. Cotton and wheat are the most valuable crops. In the Soviet period a target was for 60% of the irrigated lands to grow cotton. The farms were largely the Soviet-style communal farms, centrally managed and provided with mechanical equipment, appropriate inputs, markets for the crops, and resources to manage activities. With the collapse of the Soviet system and independence this organization could not be maintained, and farms we broken up into a new system of much smaller, family-based “dekhan” farms, without easy access to resources. Markets for cotton became unreliable, and so the area grown to this crop reduced, but it is still significant.
  7. In the lower areas of the basin, another important crop is wheat, which benefits from planting in November, before flourishing in the spring thaw and spring rains for harvesting in early summer. The land use map of the basin is shown below.

Figure 4: Land Use in Pyanj River Basin