Valuing Green Infrastructure: Case Study of Vakhsh Watershed, Tajikistan

Time frame: February 2022 – October 2023

Project lead: Vanja Westerberg 

Summary

The study demonstrates the incredible potential of using landscape restoration as a source of Green Infrastructure to reduce sedimentation of major hydropower dams in Tajikistan while improving incomes and rural wellbeing. It is produced by the World Bank, in collaboration with Altus Impact, HYDROC GmbH, the University of Central Asia, and Griffith University.

Challenge

Tajikistan is a hydropower net exporter in Central Asia. 90% of the nation’s electric power generation capacity is produced by the hydroelectric dams found along the Vakhsh River. This cascade of dams includes the world’s second tallest dam, Nurek Dam, with the future addition of the Rogun Dam upstream, which will be the world’s tallest dam when completed. The efficiency of hydropower plants are affected by excessive sediment inflow due to land degradation and soil erosion. It is of particular concern in the Central Asian belt given the geomorphology of these mountains and the land degradation and deforestation they have suffered. Respectively, the efficiency and resilience of hydropower dams can be increased through landscape restoration and watershed management programs, which can also provide an additional source of green and inclusive growth for the country.

Successful restoration programs can be felt across many sectors of the economy, while playing a fundamental role in mitigating climate change and reducing disaster risk.  Yet landscape restoration and green infrastructure has suffered from chronic underinvestment for decades, in both developed and developing economies. Scaling-up of landscape restoration efforts therefore requires significant resource mobilisation to help overcome the so-called transition gap – the time between the moment an investment is made and the time it takes for benefits to kick-in.

Moreover, many ecosystem services benefits are hidden as they are not transacted in market and when they are the potential returns may not necessarily be known to land stewards. This situation leads in turn to under-investment in landscape restoration. Policies are also needed to enable restoration. As a starting point, this involves the establishment of restoration objectives under integrated land use planning, and ensuring that fundamental governance structures and land tenure rights are established.

Activities

Considering these challenges, the study served to:

  • Identify promising landscape restoration interventions – across private and public grass, forest and cropland within Tajikistan – that can be scaled in time and space;
  • Develop an innovative assessment tool that combines advanced hydrological, landslide, and erosion modelling processes with ecosystem service valuation, and
  • Apply this approach in the Vakhsh catchment and demonstrate the monetary benefits of implementing green infrastructure for improved livelihoods, the regeneration of soils, and enhanced land productivity – which underpin locally important hydrological processes. The study also included investigations to try to find the main sources of sediments entering the Vakhsh river and assessed the financial business case for the different restoration options.

The target audience for the study include different bodies and ministries within the
Government of the Republic of Tajikistan, hydropower operators, and farmers.                                          

Impact

Study results show that mosaic restoration, combining sustainable pasture management and forest landscape restoration, across nearly 1 million hectares within the Vakhsh catchment can provide significant society-wide benefits, in the order of $8.3 billion over a 30-year time horizon. Land users alone, stand to enjoy $3.5 benefits of for every $1 invested. The evidence is clear:  Landscape restoration improves the resilience of people, ecosystems, and infrastructures and is economically profitable. 

For more insights, the report can be downloaded here: English PDF

 


Streambank Erosion along a Vakhsh River Tributary Transporting High Sediment Load, Following a Low-Intensity Storm