Perception, Interpretation and Managing of Climate Change and Related Natural Hazards in Tajikistan

Zimmermann, Béatrice (2016). Perception, Interpretation and Managing of Climate Change and Related Natural Hazards in Tajikistan. (Dissertation, University of Bern, Faculty of Humanities)

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Risks from climate change and natural hazards are heavily menacing the people of Tajik communities in almost every corner of the country. The view on and the perception of these risks and the interpretation of subsequent disasters is strongly influenced by the Muslim culture on the one side and by the difficult economic conditions of individuals, households, communities and the society as a whole on the other side. This research aims to contribute to the understanding of Central Asian people's perception and interpretation of nature and their views and approaches to today's environmental changes and risks.

Tajikistan is highly disaster-prone; climate-induced hazards like floods, droughts, mud flows, cold waves or snow avalanches constitute a major threat to people’s live, livelihood and (sustainable) development. Whereas scientific technical knowledge about climate change and resulting natural hazards and environmental degradation exists to a certain extent, the knowledge about local people’s perceptions and interpretation of nature and its hazardous development is scarce. This gap has been addressed by fieldwork using ethnographic methods in selected villages in Southern Khatlon and Kuhistoni Badakhshon. A total of 230 interviews and focus group discussions were conducted between 2010 and 2013 in these two geographically and culturally different areas. The interpretation of the results explains differences of the scientific technical and local citizens' views and highlights to what extent the perception and resulting actions are influenced by factors like educational background, religious affiliation and depth of religiosity or gender. A review of today’s literature of the Muslim academic community about the topic was carried out in addition to the fieldwork.

The studies in Southern Khatlon and Kuhistoni Badakshon revealed a clear distinction between a rational, technical view and a cultural and religious interpretation of nature, climate change and related natural hazards and subsequent disasters. Whereas villagers have a bias towards the spiritual side, clerical people or schoolchildren are also using scientific-technical explanations for the occurrence of risks and disasters. This coincides with the views of the Islamic science community: Muslim scientists use in parallel a scientific-technical framework as well as a strong spiritual one. In contrary, the cultural and religious realm in the discussion of the topic is completely missing in the official Tajikistan (national and local authorities) as well as in Tajik media. Here the scientific-technical (and Western) view prevails.

The studies further revealed that risks from climate change, related natural hazards and environmental degradation are only one type of risks in a context of high economic threats and political uncertainty: health risks, economic shortfalls (including aspects of poverty and food insecurity), political stability or educational deficiencies are much higher on peoples' agenda than the environment. Almost everybody acknowledges environmental problems but considers these of lower importance than the other risks. However, households and communities in the Pamir value their environment much less a threat than those in Southern Khatlon, although disasters from natural hazards seem to be much more obvious in the Pamir. Many individuals show fatalistic attitudes towards hazards, risks and and subsequent disasters; nevertheless, there are also practical as well as spiritual risk management strategies people apply. Obviously, the higher the level of poverty the less people see the necessity to be concerned about the environment. They would opt for risk reduction and environmental protection only when they have a direct (economic) benefit from these activities.

Item Type:

Thesis (Dissertation)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institut für Studien zum Nahen Osten und zu muslimischen Gesellschaften

UniBE Contributor:

von Kügelgen, Anke, Wastl-Walter, Doris


900 History > 910 Geography & travel
200 Religion > 290 Other religions




Igor Peter Hammer

Date Deposited:

27 Nov 2017 14:33

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:08



Additional Information:

e-Dissertation (edbe)




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