In Tajikistan, climate migrants flee threat of fatal landslides

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Tajikistan

KHUROSON, APR 17: (AFP/APP/DNA): Peeling onions in her new home, Yodgoroy Makhmaliyeva recalled the terrifying moment four years ago when a landslide buried her family home in mountainous Tajikistan.

Heavy snow and rain, she said, sent a deluge of rocks, water and mud crashing into the house in the Central Asian country estimated to be among the most vulnerable to effects of climate change.

“We had lived in fear until the day the mountain collapsed and destroyed our house,” the 61-year-old said, wearing a shimmering headscarf.

Makhmaliyeva and her husband Jamoliddin had feared a torrent of earth would destroy their home, and are now among thousands of Tajiks displaced by a growing number of natural disasters.

Authorities in the ex-Soviet country of around 10 million believe hundreds of thousands live in regions threatened by mudslides, landslides, avalanches, floods and earthquakes.

They have made relocating people to safety a priority — a daunting task for one of the world’s poorest countries.

The Makhmaliyevs were rehoused in a new village in the Khuroson district, some 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of the capital Dushanbe.

Rows of modest homes built for “ecological migrants” lined a road surrounded by fields, with mountain peaks dotting the horizon.

Makhmaliyev recounted that the couple’s old home had already survived several mudslides before it was levelled in early 2020.

“We spent a week digging out everything that was covered in dirt while we lived in a tent,” the retired music teacher said.

“We didn’t know where we were going to live,” his wife Makhmaliyeva added.

One year later the couple were allotted their home in the village designated for people threatened by natural disasters.