Tajikistan is a mountainous, landlocked country in the southeastern part of the Central Asia. It has a total area of 143 100 km2. It is bordered in the west and northwest by Uzbekistan, in the northeast by the Kyrgyz Republic, in the east by China and in the south by Afghanistan. The cultivable area has been estimated at 1.57 million ha, which is about 11% of the total area of the country. In 1994, the total cultivated area was estimated at 769,900 ha. About 689,400 ha consisted of annual crops and 80,500 ha of permanent crops, of which more than half were vineyards. The total population in mid-2007 was 7 million of which 65% is rural. Agriculture employed 50% of the economically active population and contributed some 23% of GDP.
Total internal renewable surface water resources of Tajikistan are estimated at 63.3 km3/year. On average, surface water resources available for Tajikistan are 12.98 km3/year. The total annual water withdrawal is estimated at 11.87 km3, of which over 92% is for irrigation purposes. Irrigation in Tajikistan is important for the development of agriculture and the national economy. In 1960, the total area equipped for irrigation was estimated at about 408,000 ha. In 1994 it was 719,200 ha, which was 93.4% of the total cultivated area. The total potential for irrigation development has been estimated at 755,200 ha. The major irrigated crops are cotton, fodder, fruits and grapes, cereals and vegetables. Cotton, fruits and grapes are the most important export crops.
The Government has established actual cost of water delivery to the gates of farmers’ (dekhkans) farms and other water users, considering sustainable operation of irrigation systems in the country ranging from US$5.8 to US$17.40/ for 1,000 m3. However, according to the Resolution of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of the Republic of Tajikistan No. 10 dd. 14 June 2007, the Irrigation Service Fee has been established as follows: US$2.26 for 1,000 m3 in gravity-irrigated areas and US$3.63 for 1,000 m3 in lift-irrigated areas.
Previously the legal basis of WUA establishment was provided by the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan “About Water Users Associations”, Water Code of the Republic of Tajikistan, Civil Code of the Republic of Tajikistan and other standard and legal acts. A new Water Code was passed by the Parliament of the Republic of Tajikistan on 20 November 2000 that extended the legal framework for WUA establishment and created an opportunity to transfer rights to manage water schemes to special organizations. At the beginning of November 2006 the Parliament of the Republic of Tajikistan passed the Law of the Republic of Tajikistan “About Water Users Associations” to regulate legal frameworks of organization, activity and management of WUAs like non-commercial organization to operate and maintain irrigation systems in public interests.
There are presently 123 legally registered WUAs in the country serving 175,000 ha. The main problem the country is facing to date is that WUAs have been formed by numerous international organizations such as the World Bank, USAID, ADB, EU, Swiss International Co-Operation Agency, etc. with each organization using a different WUA structure. As a result there is a lack of standardization of WUAs in the country. This is partially because the Tajikistan WUA Law, although taken from the Kyrgyz WUA Law, eliminated many articles that clearly specify structure and standard procedures for WUAs.
In accordance with the WUA Law, WUAs, in order to co-ordinate fulfillment of its Charter obligations, have the right to establish WUA Federations to act in accordance with the approved Charter. In 2006 Zafarob WUA Federation was established in the Zafarabad Rayon of the Sogd Oblast and consists of 16 WUAs with a total irrigated area 27,283 ha. Main tasks of the WUA Federation are to co-ordinate WUA-managed irrigation services and timely ensure water delivery to dekhkans farms, part-time farms from main canals, and organize strict control between WUAs for equitable water distribution.