Set at 2,200 metres above sea level, Khorog is one of the highest cities in Central Asia. It faces multiple challenges, from exposure to natural disasters to increasing demographic pressures and infrastructure deterioration, and the impact of climate change acting as a force multiplier of these risks. This poses a threat to human lives and livelihoods and hinders economic growth.
The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), which has worked for decades across this region, understands why building resilience in urban settings such as Khorog in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) is vital. It has launched a new initiative, in partnership with national and local government authorities, that incorporates these risks into the town planning of Khorog.
The Town Plan will enable stakeholders to mobilise around a multi-generational development plan ensuring investment in infrastructure and development projects. It considers opportunities, risks, hazards and future dynamics. Projects undertaken will include the reinforcement of a riverbank area, creating an area for critical infrastructure for electricity transmission, as well as forestation initiatives, which will enhance community livelihood prospects. Other projects include the reconstruction work on the Khorog Youth Centre, which is combining training in the skills needed for resilient construction – through apprenticeship and on-the-ground training.
“We are really looking forward to this renovation,” said Gulayozova Khubchehra, Manager of Khorog Youth Centre. “It will create more space, enabling even more residents to participate in all the activities that the centre offers. The youth come here to learn and socialise with each other, and even the elders come to share their experiences and knowledge. But the dilapidated condition is preventing them from doing so now. The upgrade will offer new life to the centre, allowing us to truly fulfil the mission for which it was established.”
Malika Giles, programme manager of the new initiative, added that “resilience acts as a bridge between long term development work and response to crises or disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the need to prepare for disasters and economic shocks, so that communities can anticipate, reduce the impact of, cope with and recover from the effects of shocks and stresses, all the while building for long-term perspectives and enhanced quality of life. It’s planning for safety but also planning for opportunity, even as there is increasing risk.”
The design of the initiative encompasses proof of concept projects on resilient land use and water systems, the development of a resilient town plan and investment plan and capacity building programmes at municipal and national level. All of this will be underpinned by an understanding of the risks and the opportunities through the creation of a resilient knowledge base, to enable evidence-based decision making for the future.
To ensure the programme is sustainable, inclusive and transformative, a Resilient Khorog Steering Committee and Advisory Committee will be set up. These will bring together key stakeholders, from the national level, the Governor of GBAO, the community of Khorog and the international community. In this way, the programme will set up the structures, systems and capacity to transform Khorog into a model resilient city, a place for sustainable economic growth and investment in a dynamic urban planning environment.
About the Khorog Urban Resilience Planning and Proof of Concept Initiative:
Khorog Urban Resilience Programme (KURP) is a five-year partnership with the Government of Tajikistan and the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), with co-funding from the agencies of the AKDN, the EU and the Embassy of Japan. It was developed as an initiative to link Government planning and investments to initiatives by the community, the private sector and the AKDN and International partners. The programme will work to 1) strengthen the capacity of public, private and community institutions at national and municipal level, proof of concept projects demonstrating the value of resilience tools, 2) resilience informed planning through the creation of a resilience knowledge base and 3) mobilise investments in resilience through decreasing the risks to key infrastructure from natural hazards and environmental deterioration, thus leading to increased economic growth.