National Public Radio has a heartbreaking story on Tajikstan’s attempt to find enough water to supply its daily needs — a cutting irony, as the country is simply a treasure-trove of rivers, streams, and brooks.
A study by the United Nations last year that most Tajiks lack access to safe, clean water. Many people rely on rivers and open ditches for drinking water, which are often fouled by animals, agricultural runoff and even human sewage. The situation has gotten steadily worse as infrastructure built by the Soviets has decayed and failed.
“In Soviet times there were water stands for every 10 or 15 houses in a village. It was better,” says 66-year-old Nazarali Murodov, as he waits for water from an open, rusted pipe in the village of Navbahor. Murodov has brought his donkey cart to the pipe. The animal is loaded with yellow plastic jugs and large metal milk cans.
Getting water is one of his family’s most crucial daily chores, he says. “If someone is free, he goes to fetch water and spends two to three hours to do this.”
Murodov can haul about 50 gallons of water on each trip with his donkey. His family of 10 uses one load each day, just for drinking, cooking and cleaning. If he has time, Murodov tries to make a second daily trip to the well, so he can irrigate the family garden.
Lest this be thought a typical NPR homage to the Soviet Union, the report duly notes that even during Soviet times, the minimal water infrastructure was crumbling, a problem that has only grown worse. NGOs have worked to step into the gap, but the simple issue of logistics — Tajikstan is not exactly located off a major tube line — is as much an impediment as the scale of the work needed.
The people of Tajikstan are some of the friendliest in the immediate area, and represent a wealth of untapped human potential. Yet until a simple necessity such as clean water becomes less than an afterthought on a daily basis, this poor country will remain trapped in its pre-Soviet past, as it has been for decades.
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