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Faculty of Biology, Chemistry & Earth Sciences

Research Group of Climatology - Prof. Dr. Cyrus Samimi

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Symposium Mountains of Tajikistan


The symposium “Mountains of Tajikistan – Nature and People at the Forefront of Climate Change” held at the Iwalewahaus on 10th January 2020 was attended by more than 90 participants. The four speakers have been working in the Pamirs for many years and gave their insight on the topic from own research with short presentations and during a panel discussion. Students who participated in a field trip to the Pamirs in 2019 presented their impression. After the scientific part the discussions continued in a casual atmosphere. The event was organized and moderated by Isabell Haag, M.Sc. (Climatology, University of Bayreuth) who is doing her PhD on local perception and adaptation to climate change in the Pamirs.

The Pamirs in Tajikistan, a high mountain region in Central Asia, faces challenges arising from climate and environmental change, and from economic and political influence mainly imposed from outside the region. Climatic change is characterized by increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns, alongside increasing variability and unpredictability of the weather. This has direct influences on the natural ecosystems and prevalent land use systems. The remote location of the Pamirs within a border region and its marginal economic situation, acquires the development of climate adaptation strategies by the local communities. Transdisciplinary research in close cooperation with these communities reveals new insights in local knowledge and how sustainable action can be taken. To generate joint knowledge and adaptation strategies a strong and respectful relationship with the local communities in the project regions is obligatory.

Water – A treasured and contested resource
(Dr. Jenniver Sehring, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, Netherlands)

In Central Asia, water is a key resource for agriculture, energy security, biodiversity, poverty reduction as well as for political power. Access to water is contested and unequally distributed – among the countries, where water allocation favours the downstream states, and within the countries, where certain sectors, regions and interests prevail over others.This presentation will look at how the people in Central Asia - in particular in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the “water towers” of the region – have responded to the challenges that the transformation process after 1991 posed to water governance arrangements at all levels. Driven by donors, countries have been implementing policy concepts from the Global North, like Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) or good water governance, and much research has followed by analysing their successes and failures in the political and socio-economic context of Central Asia. At the same time, we know much less about region-specific forms of water governance and local water management knowledge; albeit they could provide adequate and sustainable options for future development.

Mobile pastoralists in closed borderlands: Opportunities and restrictions for everyday life
(Tobias Kraudzun, FU Berlin, Berlin, Germany)

The presentation will focus on the mobile pastoralists living in an area, where geopolitical strategic thinking has resulted in the creation and maintenance of closed borders. I will look at the lives of people living in a harsh mountainous environment, where the people had been, and continue to be, heavily dependent on the interregional exchange of goods for their basic needs. I aim to explore the opportunities and restrictions for everyday life that arise from the persisting Soviet heritage of closed border districts. Borders are places where most territorial nation states seek to exercise full control. However, in everyday life state sovereignty at the border is challenged in multiple ways. While trying to earn their livelihoods, households of the borderlands often need to evade the restrictions of border institutions. On the other hand, underpaid border guards often follow their own agendas in favour of personal gains. I argue that state representatives undersupplied from the central government are encouraged to use sovereign power assigned to them to serving individual benefits. This affects not only the household’s expenses to deal with restrictions, but finally yields the opposite of the state’s objective to ensure its sovereignty by controlling the border.

The challenges and opportunities of forestry in Tajikistan
(Dr. Bunafsha Mislimhoeva, Unique Foresty and Land Use, Freiburg, Germany)

Tajikistan is a landlocked country, home to nearly 9 million people. In 1991 it became an independent country after being one of the Socialist republics of the Soviet Union for almost 70 years. With gaining the independence, Tajikistan experienced a brutal civil war causing tremendous human losses and cri-sis in all sectors. Consequently Tajikistan is currently facing a slow transition from a communist command-and-control system to a more market oriented, de-centralized and participatory forestry.  In the last 30 years, the country’s forestry has undergone several reorganizations. Several achievements have brought the sector forward; yet, challenges in establishing sound legal frameworks, decision-making transparency, and implementation enforcement must still be overcome. Provided, there are several international funding opportunities, Tajikistan is well positioned to further promote sustainable forest management.

Why should we be concerned about climate change in the Pamir Mountains?
(Prof. Dr. Karim-Aly Kassam, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA; Senior Fellow, University of Bayreuth)

The dramatic effects of anthropogenic climate change is an ethical and intellectual challenge that has immediate political, economic, and sociocultural consequences. While mountain societies did not contribute to its causes, they are among the first to feel the impacts of human-induced climate change on their livelihood and food systems. This is an issue of justice because climatic variation is being experienced on already existing inequities resulting from a history of colonization, resource exploitation, and war. Indigenous ways of knowing are key to responding to climate change. The key challenge for humanity will be to develop a meaningful adaptation strategy that is grounded in local sociocultural and ecological systems. This talk will suggest a methodology of hope for building confidence in the future on the basis of our work in the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia.

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