The Republic of Tajikistan is located in Central Asia between latitudes 36� 40' and 41� 05' N and longitudes 67� 31' and 75� 14' E, on the same latitude as Greece, Southern Italy and Spain. It encompasses an area of 143,100km stretching 700km from east to west and 350km from north to south. The country borders on the People's Republic of China, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. South-eastern Tajikistan is only separated from Pakistan by a narrow strip of Afghan territory 15-65km wide. The terrain in the west of the country is hilly desert and semi-desert. To the east the elevation rises to form the highest mountain systems in Central Asia - the Tien Shan and the Pamirs.
Mountain peaks are the source of numerous tributaries which flow into Tajikistan's main rivers - Syr Darya, Panj and Vakhsh (the Amu Darya begins at the merging of these two rivers). Most of the border with Afghanistan follows the Panj and Amu Darya Rivers.
Three majestic mountainous ranges mark the country: the Tien Shan, the Alai, and the Pamir Darvoz, with elevations ranging between 300 and 7,495m above sea level.
The region is generally divided into the following natural zones, with climates ranging from dry subtropics to areas of perpetual snow:
- lowlands - plains - 400-500m;
- high-altitude - 2,000-3,500m;
highest-altitude - 5,500-7,400m.
Tajikistan is 93% mountainous with more than half of the country sitting at altitudes over 3,000m above sea level. Several well-known mountain peaks are over 7,000m, such as Ismoili Somoni Peak (formerly Communism Peak, renamed in 2000) - 7,495m, Lenin Peak -7,134m, and Eugeniya Korzhenevskaya Peak - 7,105m. Many others over 6,000m are situated here.
The Pamir plateau, which is around 800km long, with altitudes ranging from 5-7,000m above sea level, is known as the highest region in Central Asia (apart form Tibet). The Pamir region, also known as the "Roof of the World", can be described as a large high-altitude plateau with wide, flat-bottomed, grassy (and sometimes swampy) valleys, with slow rivers and streams.
The area of Ismoili Somoni Peak is frequently considered to be the Pamir mountain junction, from which other great mountain ranges stretch in different directions: the Himalayas and Karakoram ranges to the southeast, the Hindu Kush to the south-west, Kunlun Shan to the east and the Tien Shan to the north-east. These mountains were formed more than 100 million years ago as a result of powerful tectonic movements in the earth's crust.
The Topography of the land is characterized by mountain ranges with their numerous glaciers and snowcapped peaks interspersed with valleys (Zarafshon, Qa-rategin, Badakhshan and others smaller in size), where farming is developed and settlements with industrial plants are situated. Oases such as Kulob-Vakhsh, His-sar, and Khujand make up about 7% of the area.
The Soil is unique in its diversity according to elevation. Simply by looking at the elevation the following soil belts can be identified:
1) Valley: lowlands with grey soil;
2) Midlands: mountainous with mountainous brown soil;
3 Highland: mountainous with high-mountainous -meadow-prairie, steppe, desert-prairie, hard and desert soil;
4) Highest altitude: rottenstone soil in cracks of high-mountainous rocks and hollows.
The Climate in Tajikistan is continental with sharp variations in daily and seasonal temperatures, featuring high-intensity solar radiation, aridity, clear skies and an uneven distribution of precipitation between the seasons. The ruggedness of the terrain plays an importation role in the distribution of heat and moisture. Rainfall and air temperature differ drastically depending on the elevation and location of mountains. In Central Tajikistan, at altitudes of 1,500-2,000m, the annual rainfall is 1,800mm, while in the south of the country, at altitudes of 300 -500m it drops to 200mm. In the East-Pamirs. at 4,000m altitude, the average is only 60mm. There are about 275 sunny days per year.
The air temperature also varies between the different altitudes and areas. The winter in Shahrituz (in the south) could be as warm as 20�C, while in the Pamirs in the Bulunkul Lake area it may be as low as -63�C. The weather at altitudes below 1,000m is generally characterized by a higher average air temperature and relatively low rainfall.
The average annual rainfall at altitudes 1,200 -3,200m is 560-650mm.
The average annual temperature is +5.4�C.
From June to October, dust storms are frequent. Dust remains in the air for several days at a time, and only heavy rains allow the dust to settle.
Water resources. The Amu Darya and Syr Darya basins consist of about 1,000 rivers and temporary streams, which are part of the largest system in Central Asia. There are more than 2,000 lakes here, containing 44km3 of water, including 20km3 of fresh water.
The largest lakes of Tajikistan (Qarakul, Rangkul, Zorkul, Sarez, and Yashilkul) are in the Pamirs. The total volume of water of in the Pamir lakes is 43km3, including 26.6km3 of saltwater in Qarakul Lake and about 17km3 of freshwater in Sarez Lake, which formed in 1911 as a result of a blockage in the Murghob River bed during an earthquake.
Significant resources of water - 460km3 - are concentrated in glaciers (more than 11,000 in total). They occupy about 7,820km2 or 5.5% of the total area of the country. One of the largest mountain-valley glaciers in the world - Fedchenko Glacier (652km2, about 70km in length) is situated in the Pamirs. Tajikistan contains 60% of all Central Asia's glaciers and most of them are in the north and east Pamirs.
The total water yield of rivers passing through Tajikistan is 65km3. About 52km3 of this comes from within the country, but Tajiks only use about 11km3, the rest being allotted to neighbouring countries (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan).
About 50% of the Aral Sea's annual water yield comes from Tajikistan. Many mountainous rivers are characterized by steep gradients - up to 40 m/km. From May to August river floods may be observed, and the river water is at its muddiest.
During the summer period 15 rivers are used solely for watering basic crops.
Tajikistan is the second highest-ranked CIS country (after the Russian Federation) for water reserves, and the highest among the Central Asian states.
The potential electricity-generating capacity of the large and medium rivers of Tajikistan is 283 billion kWh annually, which is 54.3 % of the potential power output of all Central Asia.
The drinking water supply comes from both open reservoirs and ground water.
Tajikistan is rich in hot springs. Some are very hot indeed, with temperatures of up to 95�C on discharge. Among the hottest are the waters of Khoja Obigarm (from 38� - 95�C), Kauk (76�C), Yashilkul (69�C), Jilandi (66.5�C), Elisu (63.5�C), Jartygumbez (63�C), Tokuzbu-lak (62�C), Garm Chashma (60�C), and Obigarm (41� -55�C). Warm springs include Kyzylrabat (38.5�C), Shirgin (36�C), Avj (34�C), and Bakhmyr (38�C). Most of the springs are either carbonaceous or siliceous. There are also radon and chalybeate thermal springs, but significantly fewer of these are found.
Thermal waters have not yet been investigated well, and their deposits have neither been thoroughly explored nor their reserves approved. So far, only the waters of Khoja Obigarm, Obigarm, Garm Chashma, Kaltuch, Avj, Jilandi and Jartygumbez springs have been opened up for therapeutic purposes, and in most of them elementary hydrotherapy facilities are functioning. Other springs are used only by the local population.
Jilandi spring may be of commercial importance (for the establishment of greenhouses), as drilling has identified hot water reserves of 56 I/sec at temperatures ranging from 50�-80�C.
The abundance of geothermal springs with sufficient discharge, temperature and appropriate mineral composition may allow the establishment of greenhouses, therapeutic clinics, recreation areas, heating grids, facilities for extraction of microelements, growing high-protein algae, and breeding heat-loving fish species.