Vakhsh River

Rivers and lakes of the Tajikistan The Vakhsh River, also known as the Surkhob in north-central Tajikistan and the Kyzyl-Suu in Kyrgyzstan, is a Central Asian river, and one of the main rivers in the nation of Tajikistan. It is a tributary of the Amu Darya River. It is a very important source of water, not only to Tajikistan, but as one of the largest tributaries of the Amu-Darya, supplies huge amounts of water used in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan for agricultural purposes. The powerful body of water supplies most of the water needed to irrigate the vast cotton plantations and farms in the fertile southern plains. It is not navigable, but many dams have been built along its length, providing the country with plentiful electricity supplies.

The river's source lies in a very remote area of southern Kyrgyzstan near the Chinese border, where it runs westwards for 262 kilometers; it then flows through Tajikistan for a length of 524 km (325 miles) before joining the Pyanj River to form the Amu Darya at the border of Tajikistan and Afghanistan. For most of its route, it rushes through alpine mountains, before slowing down in the plains of southern Tajikistan. The average annual discharge of the Vakhsh is 16.9 km3, with an average flow of 536 m3/s. The river, which is fed mostly by melting glaciers, achieves maximum flow during the summer months of July and August. The river flows through very mountainous territory, which frequently restricts the river's flow to narrow channels within deep gorges. The river's watershed area is 39,100 km2, of which 31,200 square kilometers lies within Tajikistan. The largest tributaries of the Vakhsh are the Muksu and the Obihingou. The Vakhsh officially begins at the confluence of the Obihingou and Surkhob Rivers.

The hydroelectric power potential of the Vakhsh River has been thoroughly exploited by the Soviet Union and its successor, Tajikistan. There are currently five completed hydroelectric dams along the Vakhsh within Tajikistan, including the world's tallest dam, at Nurek. The five dams supply 90% of the country's electric power generation capacity, and far more power than the country needs. In addition, another four dams are planned or under construction, including the Rogun Dam, which will beat Nurek as tallest in the world once it is completed. The existing dams along the Vakhsh make Tajikistan the highest hydroelectric power producer (per capita) in the world. Tajikistan is already a net exporter of electricity, and is set to become one of the biggest exporters in the world, an important source of cash for this relatively poor country. As of 2008, limited recreational use of the river included fishing, recreation on the huge Nurek reservoir, and a few adventurous kayakers and rafters; though such organized tourist services are non-existent at this time.

The Vakhsh is subject to occasional blockage by landslides caused by earthquakes in the seismically active region. Such landslides pose a significant threat to the river's dams and hydroelectric power generation. In response to an earthquake-caused landslide in 2002, Tajikistan was granted a low-interest loan from the Asian Development Bank to mitigate the potential impact of the landslide.

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