Sunday, January 30, 2022

A Natural Disaster with Geopolitical Consequences Waiting to Happen in Highland Tajikistan

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 10 – In addition to all the other problems that plague Tajikistan’s Badakhshan autonomy on the border with Afghanistan, there is a natural disaster waiting to happen that would have enormous geopolitical consequences far beyond the borders of that country, Vladimir Prokhvatilov says.

            The Moscow analyst points to the possibility that the Sarez Lake which was created by an earthquake in 1911 could easily disappear if that land dam broke, a possibility Chinese and Russian experts have been discussing. Were that to happen, thousands of people could die and outside powers would be compelled to intervene.

            In fact, the analyst says, in Soviet times, Moscow decided that it had to take preventive measures lest there be a breakdown in the dam created by the earthquake in the early 20th century and launched plans to lessen pressure on it (

            These plans involved constructing pipelines to drain off some of the water in a safe way; but before they could be realized, the Soviet Union collapsed and the entire project was suspended. Dushanbe has done little or nothing in the interim, but now China is involved. It has set up monitoring stations to see whether a land dam collapse is imminent.

            Because of Chinese interest in the region, including at least two military facilities, it is likely that Beijing will ultimately get more heavily involved and do something like what the Soviets were planning. If that happens and if Moscow is not involved, that perhaps more than many other things will tilt Dushanbe away from the Russian Federation toward China.

            It is clear that Prokhvatilov, who entitles his article “How to Save Central Asia from the Slumbering Dragon of the Pamir,” wants to see Moscow get involved either on its own or in partnership with the Chinese. From his perspective, a Chinese-only project would be a disaster for Moscow.

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