Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Radiating Ill Health in Tajikistan

By Kamar Ahror











More than two decades since uranium mining ended in Tajikistan, the legacy of this Soviet-era industry continue to pose health risks to local communities.

Dumps containing waste from the disused mines still contain dangerous radioactive material, and the once-sealed storage facilities have cracked, allowing it to escape into the environment. Many are located close to settlements and water sources, in a country known for high levels of seismic activity.

The Degmay dump in Soghd region is the largest of ten sites in Tajikistan, and has never been covered over with the one-metre layer of earth considered the minimum requirement.

Residents of the village of Gozion, five kilometres away, say dust from the site is blown onto their farmland and water sources by the wind. Some villagers allow their livestock to graze close to the dump itself, ignoring the warning signs posted around it.

Numon Hakimov, former head of nuclear safety at Tajikistan’s Academy of Sciences, says the government just does not have the money to make the waste sites safe.

Doctors say Soghd region has two or three times the cancer rate of other parts of Tajikistan, and put this down to radiation leaks from the dumps.  

Kamar Ahror is an IWPR contributor in Tajikistan. 

This audio programme went out in Russian and Tajik on national radio stations in Tajikistan. It was produced under two IWPR projects: Empowering Media and Civil Society Activists to Support Democratic Reforms in Tajikistan, funded by the European Union; and the Human Rights Reporting, Confidence Building and Conflict Information Programme, funded by the Foreign Ministry of Norway.The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of IWPR and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of either the European Union or the Norwegian foreign ministry.