Tajikistan, a landlocked state, is the smallest country in central Asia by area. The region is generally hilly with most regions being covered by mountains of the Pamir range and up to ten chains of mountains. It is also rich in the numerous rivers, which originate from glaciers in the mountains. The Aral Sea, for example, has its source in glacier. This country is also endowed with eight lakes which cover two percent of the country’s area (Geography, 2014). Tajikistan’s environment continues to suffer from the effects of pollution. The contamination is as a result of immense discharges of agricultural chemicals in the soil and underground water, manufacturing and petrol-powered vehicle emissions, release of sewage and manufacturing waste into the water systems, poor water resource management and soil erosion.
Tajikistan’s income heavily depends upon payments from migrant employees working abroad and exports of aluminium and cotton. The republic produces huge quantities of these raw materials. The country, however, lacks aluminium ore occurrences since it receives this raw material as an import. The state-owned Tajik aluminium smelting plant, TALCO, in Tursunzoda, remains the principal enterprise in aluminium making industry in Central Asia and Tajikistan's chief industrial asset with over 12,000 employees. Located in the western part of the country, near the border with Uzbekistan, it situates close to several rivers like Shirkent and Karagat.
Nevertheless, TALCO has faced sharp criticism from the Uzbekistan government, citing trans-boundary pollution caused by harmful industrial emissions. According to a letter addressed to the UN from the Uzbekistan's Permanent Representative, Diler Hakimov, to UN Secretary-General, the manufacturing emissions by the company is a major threat to the safety of the environment and the sources of livelihoods for the people in the region (United Nations Development Program [UNDP], 2014). The Representative stressed that the magnitude of the harmful impact of the pollution from TALCO on the environment, people’s health, as well as severe destruction to ecosystems has extended to unprecedented levels (UNDP, 2014).
According to Uzbek experts, the company does not have up-to-date purification systems and as a result, it continues to emit at least two hundred tons of hydrogen fluoride per year. This emission is very perilous, not just for the environment but also for people’s health. Consequently, in some regions of Uzbekistan the amounts of hydrogen fluoride are beyond permissible levels (Uzbekistan, 2014). Moreover, the impact of the emissions on the surrounding environment became apparent in the 80s through a report of the UNEP that mentioned high levels of poisonous gases. In the late 80s it was realized that stationary objects were bearing larger responsibility for discharging harmful substances.
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Deforestation and other socioeconomic activities have also complemented the effects of industrial emission on environmental deterioration. Over the years, several parts of Tajikistan have been characterized by diminishing forest population. This trend has been accompanied by the development of new territories, emergence of new villages and lack of alternative sources of fuel. The fading forest population has resulted in diminishing numbers of valuable and endemic types of indigenous plants. The process of urbanization and the worsening socioeconomic situation have are also threatening the existing wildlife and natural reserves. Deforestation has been considered a problem because it directly affects the soils exposed to erosion. As the region has a rugged terrain, the top layer of loose soil and nutrients can be washed off. This leaves the soil agriculturally unproductive with very small economic value (Weinstein, Davison, 2004).
Another factor complementing industrial emissions is inadequate sanitary conditions. Typhoid fever was recognized as an epidemic in Tajikistan starting in 1996. It spread amongst individuals and was characterized by several sources: emitted sewage, polluted metropolitan water, (www.ajtmh.org, 2014). Most of the infected population has become drug resistant even to ciprofloxacin, which is considered the most effective remedy. This incident caused the emergence of the first global case of quinolone-resistant typhoid fever. Mass immunization has been considered as the best measure for the control of the prolonged typhoid fever epidemic besides other suggested sanitation and public health measures (www.ajtmh.org).
With Tajikistan being the main zone of flow formation in the Aral Sea basin, majority of ecological problems has appeared because of water resource use. Besides the fact, that water resources are the natural wealth of this country, it has also promoted the manifestation of such natural disasters as mud flows, floods, swamping, salinization, and water pollution. The occurrence of such calamities has resulted in degradation processes in all components of the environment. In the transport sector, roads and railroads have been destroyed by landslides and flooding. With Hydro works and riverbanks being destroyed by erosion, flooding has also drastically affected fishing activities. Decontamination of waste waters has become a boundless difficulty, with polluted waste waters flowing out from water reservoirs to the surface of earth.
Emission of hydrogen fluoride has serious influence on fauna and flora. In humans’ organisms it has been reported to cause deadly destruction to the lungs, liver, and kidneys through inhalation. According to the official statement of the Uzbekistan embassy, other effects such as irritation of the eyes, nose and respiratory tract, lacrimation, chest tightness, and wheezing have been evident (uzbekembassy.org, 2014). Symptoms in hydrogen the fluoride intake include tooth fluorosis among other diseases (Weinstein & Davison, 2004).
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According to reports of the Uzbekistan government, the emission also affected silk production which has been traditional in the region. The massive decline in crop production and perishing garden yield were experienced (uzbekembassy.org, 2014).Visible effects were noted among animals, too. The substantial drop of the population of cattle and sheep, decline of quality and quantity of milk produced was experienced. The pollution also resulted in serious abnormalities in animal organisms which lead to defective offspring, lower regeneration, early culling of animals and stillbirth (uzbekembassy.org, 2014).
Other effects of dangerous emission include the below mentioned consequences.
Directing industrial and sewage emissions back into water sources resulted in the deterioration of the quality of water sources. Such pollution leads to a consequential worsening of the natural state of water, topsoil and life circumstances of the population. Such water is usually saturated with salts and agricultural wastes. A UNEP report, for example, mentions the basin of river Syrdarya where a high degree of water mineralization was detected and the sources of river pollution were the irrigated lands of the Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan. Pollution of underground waters, owing to poor waste management amongst enterprises of chemical industry, has also been noted (Weinstein & Davison, 2004). Together with Tadjik aluminium plant the other polluters include Vaksh nitrogen fertilizer plant and Yavansky electrochemical plant.
Several initiatives have been taken to avert environmental harm which industrial emissions might have. A report of the UNEP cites that the Tajikistan government is not the exception and is participating in the Europe and Central Asian Ozone Protection Award for Customs & Enforcement Officers launched by UNEP DTIE’s Ozone Action Program in 2010 (UNEP, 2014). An official report of the Tajikistan embassy stated that the continuous assessment and monitoring of the TALCO’s environmental and health hazards is conducted. The government is also carrying out the environmental assessment aimed at studying the effect of the industrial pollution from the plant on flora and fauna that surround it (Tajikistan, 2014). Other initiatives, like gas scrubbing, have also been suggested to decontaminate industrial gas and other wastes before being emitted to the environment.