Time frame: February 2022 – March 2023
Altus Impact is working with Hydroc on a World Bank project to demonstrate the value of using landscape restoration as Green Infrastructure to reduce sedimentation of major hydropower dams in Tajikistan and improve rural incomes.
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 can be affected by excessive sediment inflow due to land degradation and soil erosion. While this is typically one of many factors that can reduce efficiency, 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 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, whilst 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 forest enterprises, farmers and livestock herders 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 may involve the establishment of restoration targets under integrated land use planning, and ensuring that fundamental governance structures and land tenure rights are established.
With these challenges in mind, the objective of the study was 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.
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 at least $8 billion in society-wide net benefits over a 30-year time horizon (6% discount rate), whilst land users themselves stand to enjoy $3.5 benefits of for every $1 invested. The full results and impressive impact that can be achieved through large-scale mosaic landscape restoration will be reported here, upon publication of the study.
Overall, new institutions, governance models and financial instruments need to be developed for implementing green infrastructure developments. Projects and policies, benefit from insights that can inform the evaluation of their success. This study serves as an important contribution to this effort, by demonstrating the multiple benefits that are generated by land restoration in terms of enhancing rural prosperity, mitigating climate change and the protecting critical infrastructure, within the Vakhsh river basin in Tajikistan.