Khorog, Tajikistan, 10 October 2009 – Tajik Government dignitaries and officials from the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) today inaugurated a US$ 4 million urban park in Khorog, the main city of Tajikistan’s mountainous Gorno-Badakshan Automomous Oblast (GBAO), which is situated on the border with Afghanistan.
The park was officially opened by Tajikistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Asadullo Gulomov in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, the Spiritual Leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network.
“The Park is not only a place of beauty to be enjoyed by many generations of future citizens and visitors to Khorog,” said the Aga Khan, “it is also one of the earliest symbols of the processes of change for which I hope and pray in this region.”
The Aga Khan emphasized that the park was part of a broader effort to bring positive change to one of the most remote areas of Tajikistan. He noted that the city of Khorog will also host one of the three Campuses of the regional University of Central Asia, which will also have campus sites in the mountainous areas of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
The revitalization of Khorog Park, the main municipal green space in this community, was undertaken over the last five years by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), in collaboration with the Governorate of GBAO.
The first phase of Park construction was completed in 2007. The project has created 65 jobs and employed an additional 120 people during the five years of construction. Forty people were trained in stone masonry during this period. Local sourcing of construction materials has also had a significant impact on the local economy.
The work on three of the Park’s main features -- the pond, the restaurant and the teahouse -- was completed at the end of 2008, while the open-air theatre was completed in 2009. The 4.2 hectare (10.4 acre) Park is now fully operational.
The process began in June of 2004, when AKTC began consultations with the local population of Khorog with the aim of assessing what the community wanted in terms of core functions and essential features of an upgraded park. A programme of levelling works, topsoil enhancement, fertilising and irrigation followed. Lawns were sown and appropriate plants and flowers, raised in the on-site nursery and at Gelondi, were planted. Restored stone channels are used for irrigation in the summer, while underground systems take over in winter.
The use of stone is a feature of the Park, particularly in the extensive rehabilitation and extension of pathways, often paved in striking herringbone patterns. The path of the main spine of the Park, panoramic pathway and the riverside promenade, the wall of the ponds, fountains, stairways and features in the garden chambers are also built using stone, often involving exquisite detailing.
As with other projects – in Afghanistan, Mali and Zanzibar, for example – AKTC’s park restoration was integrated into the continuum of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) activities in the region. These include the Mountain Societies Development Programme (MSDSP), which currently implements rural development projects in 17 districts in three regions of Tajikistan – GBAO, Rasht valley, and Khatlon, reaching more than 730,000 people. Since 1997, it has mobilised over 1000 village organizations and overseen the construction or rehabilitation of more than 400 water and sanitation projects, 850 irrigation projects, 270 road and bridge projects, 280 health facilities, 150 schools and 25 mini-hydels. It is largely responsible for raising food security in the region from 15 percent in 1993 to over 70 percent today. Economic development projects include a hydroelectric plant (Pamir 1) that supplies the province with electricity; a mobile phone provider that cover 90 percent of the country; and a hotel being built in Dushanbe. The largest project underway is the creation of a campus of the University of Central Asia, in Khorog, which will have a broad socio-economic impact on the entire region and beyond.
AKTC’s Historic Cities Programme, the unit which undertook the Park revitalization, was established in 1992 to undertake the conservation of historic structures, the improvement of public spaces and the rehabilitation of urban areas in ways that spark social, economic and cultural development within communities where Muslims have a significant presence. The Programme goes beyond mere restoration of monuments to engage in the adaptive re-use of the sites, contextual urban planning and the improvement of housing, infrastructure and public spaces, and socio-economic development initiatives directed at upgrading local living conditions. Local potential and resources are mobilized to ensure the project’s eventual self-sustainability in their operational income, human resources and institutional management capabilities. Throughout the Programme, investments in single projects are coordinated with other AKDN Programmes.
For more information:
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The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) (www.akdn.org) was founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims. It is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies working to empower communities and individuals to improve living conditions and opportunities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. The Network’s nine development agencies focus on social, cultural and economic development for all citizens, regardless of gender, origin or religion. The AKDN’s underlying ethic is compassion for the vulnerable in society. Its annual budget for philanthropic activity is in excess of US$450 million.