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Bishkek (AKIpress) - Although Tajikistan is plentifully supplied with fresh water, its depleted infrastructure – resulting from the Soviet break-up in 1991 and a civil war immediately afterwards – meant, paradoxically, that it was difficult to provide drinking water to municipal end-users.
Access to drinking water was limited to a few hours a day. Municipal water, drawn primarily from the polluted Syr Darya River, was shared with factories. Only sporadic repairs had been made since independence to the city’s antiquated water pipes – or the asbestos-and-iron sewage system – by the Khujand Water Company.
The Soviet tradition that water was a free good had created a vicious cycle in which tariffs were too low to sustain the water system’s maintenance, let alone investment. Available water was pumped at such low pressure that it had to be carried in buckets to people’s homes for storage. With summer temperatures reaching 40C degrees, Khujand’s 165,000 people were prone to waterborne disease.
Phase 1 of the EBRD project – which was to cover water supply rehabilitation in 30 percent of the city – was financed by a loan of $1.2 million. In tandem, the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) provided a grant for capital expenditure of $ 2.1 million.
The project covered the investment need in phases, which gradually allowed for institutional strengthening and creditworthiness enhancement in the utility in parallel with improved water tariff collection rate. Each phase was accompanied by substantial technical cooperation funded by the donors of the ETC Fund and SECO, among others.
Similar water projects are now underway in 20 other cities in Tajikistan, in 10 Kyrgyz cities and other projects follow a similar model in the Caucasus, Moldova and Belarus.
Phase 2 of the project covering the rest of the city’s water supply has now also successfully concluded. Again this featured grant support from SECO, this time €3.5 million to the EBRD’s 1.5 million loan, with further grant funding for technical cooperation from SECO and the ETC Fund.