Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Climate change and water shortages closing in on Tajikistan and Central Asia

Oxfam: The people of Tajikistan, many already feeling the strains of climate change, will be increasingly afflicted over the next 40 years unless immediate action is taken to mitigate the effects, according to a new report released today by Oxfam. The report, Reaching Tipping Point? Climate Change and Poverty in Tajikistan, says that the country‘s glaciers - mainly found in the Pamir Mountains that make up part of the Trans-Himalayan range - are retreating and could lead to greater water shortages and disputes in the wider region in the future.

The painful blow of climate change has been sharply felt in rural areas of Tajikistan in recent years where 1.4 million people are already food insecure. Last summer’s good rains brought some relief to rural communities across Tajikistan that had previously suffered from three consecutive years of drought, failed harvests and one of the harshest winters on record. But the long-term trends are clear – and ominous.

“It is indisputable that glaciers in Tajikistan are retreating. It is also indisputable that if glaciers continue to retreat, and the country experiences more extreme weather, countless people will be dealt an even harder blow. Nearly one and a half million people are already food insecure and that figure will likely rise if climate change is not addressed. There could even be a dangerous ripple effect across Central Asia, with countries throughout the region potentially wrestling over dwindling water resources in coming decades,” said Andy Baker, Oxfam Tajikistan’s Country Director.

Tajikistan’s plight highlights the international injustice of climate change, as it is one of the countries least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change. This mountainous, poverty-stricken, Central Asian country ranks 109th in the world for all greenhouse gas emissions, 129th in emissions per capita, and its people emit less than one tonne of carbon dioxide per head per year as compared to nearly 20 tonnes by North Americans.

Some key data disclosed in the report:
• There has been a rise by 1.0-1.2 degrees C in parts of the country over the past 60 years
• The number of days per year the temperature has reached 40 degrees C has increased
• Droughts will likely be more intense and frequent in the future; in 2008 Tajikistan suffered one of its worst droughts on record while the winter of 2008 saw temperatures of minus 20 degrees C for more than a month, causing serious crop loss
• According to cited scientists, 20 percent of the country’s glaciers have retreated and up to 30 percent more are likely to retreat or disappear by 2050
• Fedchenko Glacier, the country’s largest, has melted at a rate of 16-20 metres per year
• The consequences of climate change could overstretch many countries’ adaptive capacity in the region, contributing to political destabilization and triggering migration

Tajikistan seen by satellite

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