Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Needs Assessment Tajikistan Preliminary Report, section 5: Water Supply and Sanitation, September 2004
5. Water Supply and Sanitation
MDGs related to safe water supply
Target 10 of the MDG 7 is to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.” Improving water and sanitation systems is also an important element in the effort to achieve the MDG 2 of providing universal basic education, and health related MDGs 4, 5 and 6. Provision of safe water is one of the most important human development goals, without which MDG targets are not realistic.
At present, water supply and sanitation facilities in Tajikistan are neither safe nor adequate. With an annual production of over 13,000 cubic metres of water per capita, Tajikistan is one of the most water wealthy states in the world, yet the country is able to provide just 59 percent of its population with access to safe drinking water. Overall, the country has the worst access to drinking water in the CIS, and outbreaks of waterborne illnesses pose a serious risk to public health. In urban areas, untreated river water flows directly into cities’ water pipes, and water systems are badly decayed and are subject to frequent service outages. In rural regions, where less than half of residents have access to improved water sources, large tracts of the population take their water from ponds, canals, rivers and other unsafe sources. With regard to sanitation, nearly all households have access to pit latrines, but most of these are of poor construction and pose a risk to public health. A majority of schools and rural medical institutions lack proper sanitation and water facilities.
There are several reasons for the poor state of Tajikistan’s water and sanitation services. As in other sectors, the hardships of post-Soviet economic transition and the civil war have taken a toll on the water supply infrastructure. Low levels of official budget allocations and difficulties collecting user fees have severely limited domestic financing, which has been insufficient to meet the substantial requirements for capital investment. Even if increased funding were made available, it is doubtful that the water authorities could apportion resources effectively among the sector’s many and pressing needs. As a complement to investment, structural reforms are needed to improve the efficiency of service provision and strengthen incentives to rationalise consumption.
Given the potential benefits for social development, investment in and development of water services should be a high priority for Tajikistan. The resource needs for expanding access to safe water and adequate sanitation in Tajikistan are much lower than in the health and education sectors. The greatest needs are in rural areas – where water systems development is relatively cheap to build and operate. The cost of rehabilitating urban water systems, however, is high and adds considerably to the challenges and financing requirements facing the sector.
Table 7. Access to improved water sources
National drinking water strategy
The national poverty reduction strategy notes that water supply and sanitation, along with other key infrastructure services, are “essential to economic growth and contribute much to the improvement of living conditions.” In 2002, the Government approved the National Concept on the Rational Use and Protection of Water Resources, which emphasises the need to reduce wastage and strengthen conservation of national water supplies. Ultimately, progress will depend on the Government’s ability to translate its strategic vision into specific, well-implemented actions, and on the ability of Tajikistan and its international partners to meet resource requirements for development in this area. The Government distinguishes between priorities for rural and urban areas: “in urban areas the focus will be on improving the reliability of the infrastructure, in rural areas the priority will be to provide access” to essential goods and services. Authorities also acknowledge the need to reform water sector financing to bolster incentives for rational consumption and ensure that service provision is financially “self-supporting” while taking steps to cushion the impact of tariff reforms on low-income households through targeted subsidy programmes.
Tajikistan is unlikely to meet the MDGs for water and sanitation without a concerted effort on the part of national authorities, local communities and international partners. Altogether, the cost of meeting the MDG 7 target for water and sanitation provision is estimated at US$800 million. The single largest expense for meeting MDG 7 is the rehabilitation of badly degraded urban water systems. Without significant investment in this area Tajikistan’s growing urban population is likely to become increasingly exposed to hazards of waterborne disease. Outbreaks of typhoid in the capital during the fall of 2003 and summer of 2004 underscore the potential consequences of failing to invest in water services.
Table 7. Summary costs for Water and Sanitation
Improving water and sanitation services in rural areas is the most important objective for the country in this area. Developing these services is also relatively inexpensive: the needs assessment suggests that the MDG target for water supply in rural areas could be met by investing less than US$100 million.
Table 8. Notional financing for water supply and sanitation
As is noted in Tajikistan’s 2003 National Human Development Report, the implications of unsafe water and poor sanitation for human development are considerable. It is highly unlikely that the MDG targets for infant and child mortality (MDGs 4 and 5) or for disease control (MDG 6) could be met without significant improvements in water and sanitation services. The high incidence of water-borne disease in areas with inadequate water and sanitation services is a prime cause of infant mortality and malnutrition in the country. Diarrhoea is the most widespread problem, affecting more than 1 in 100 residents in 2002. Other water-borne diseases, such as typhoid and bacterial dysentery also pose serious threats to public health.
Improving water and sanitation systems is also an important element in the effort to raise school enrolment and attendance (MDG 2) as well as in efforts at promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women (MDG 3). For example, enrolment and attendance rates for girls have been shown to rise with the provision of clean latrines in schools. And supplying households with a convenient household or community water point can spare women and girls significant time and effort fetching water from more distant sources. Higher levels of female education can help reduce the incidence of disease among children.
Improvements in basic water and sanitations services can have especially strong benefits for poor households, which either lack the resources to cope with poor water and sanitation or pay disproportionately more for these services. Indeed, international studies have suggested that despite being less able to bear the costs, poor households often pay more per cubic meter for drinking water than do wealthier households with better access to water systems.