Tajikistan’s unique mountainous terrain features vast reserves of snow and ice concentrated in its highlands. The climatic boundaries of perennial frost lie at elevations of 3,500-3,600 m in the west and rise to 5,800 m in the east. The total area covered by glaciers in Tajikistan exceeds 8,476 km2, with over a thousand glaciers measuring more than 1.5 km in length. Sixteen glaciers are longer than 16 km, including the Vanjyakh (Fedschenko) and Grumm-Grzhimaylo glaciers. The Vanjyakh Glacier is among the world’s ten largest glaciers.
Tajikistan’s most precious wealth lies in its rivers and lakes, which are systematically fed by glaciers. The country’s major water arteries are the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers and their tributaries. Significant rivers in Tajikistan include the Panj, Vakhsh, Kofarnihon, Bartang, Gund, and Zarafshan, all of which are major tributaries of the Amu Darya River, which flows into the Aral Sea basin. Tajikistan boasts a total of 947 rivers with lengths exceeding 10 km, and with a combined length of over 28,500 km. The potential hydroelectric power resources of these rivers is estimated at about 527.06 billion kWh per year.
Tajikistan is also rich in lakes, with approximately 1300 lakes in the country, containing about 46.3 km3 of water, including over 20 km3 of freshwater. The total water surface area of these lakes covers 1005 km2, which is approximately 1% of the country’s territory. The genesis of these lakes is primarily tectonic, glacial, and karstic in nature.
Glacial and debris flow lakes are the most common types. Glacial lakes are widespread in the Northern and Eastern Pamirs. Among them are some of the world’s highest-altitude lakes, including Chapdara Lake (4,529 m), Karakul Lake (3,914 m), Zorkul Lake (4,126 m), Turumtaykul Lake (4,213 m), and others. Glacial origins can also be attributed to the Kulikalon Lakes, Hazor Chashma, and Iskanderkul.
Debris flow lakes are found in the highlands of the central and eastern parts of Tajikistan. These include the Marguzor Lakes, Sarez Lake, and Yashilkul. These lakes are primarily fed by glacial and snowmelt runoff.
The youngest lake in Tajikistan is Sarez Lake, located in the Murghab River valley. It was formed in February 1911 as a result of the Usoi earthquake. The height of the dam created by this earthquake is over 600 m, and the volume of water accumulated in this lake is approximately 17.5 billion m3.
Tajikistan’s reservoirs play a significant role in regulating river flow and enabling the utilization of its water resources for the benefit of the economies of the Aral Sea basin countries. The importance of these reservoirs becomes even more evident in the context of climate change. The reservoirs also have a crucial role in flood prevention and protecting economic infrastructure from the destructive impact of floods, which are common in Central Asia.
Tajikistan has constructed and operates 11 reservoirs, including the Bahri Tojik (Kayrakkum), Nurek, Baypazin, Kattasay, Muminabad, Selbur, Golovnoye, Daganasay, Farkhad, Sangtuda-1, and Sangtuda-2 reservoirs. In addition, the Rogun hydroelectric complex with its reservoir is under construction. The largest is the Kayrakkum reservoir, located in the northern part of Tajikistan, and Nurek, located in the central part of Tajikistan. The total surface area of all these reservoirs is 664 km2, and their total volume is 15.344 km3, including 7.63 km3 of useful volume. This represents about 13% of the average annual flow of rivers in the Aral Sea basin.