length 55.8 km
absolute surface height 3,263 m
above MSL
maximum width 3.3 km
maximum depth 500 m
maximum water volume 16.074 km³
received balance 47.1 m³/sec
= 1,487 million m³/year
surged balance 47.7 m³/sec
= 1,505 million m³/year
maximum seasonal fluctuation
of the lake level
12 m

The Lake Sarez was created in 1911 when an enormous landslide caused by an earthquake in the Pamir Mountain range of Tajikistan blocked the Murgab river valley. The river soon formed a lake approximately 60 km in length, containing close to 17 cubic kilometers of water. The natural dam which retains the lake, named 'Usoi', is located at an altitude of 3200 meters. With a height of over 550 meters, it is the tallest dam, natural or man-made, in the world.

Until recently, very little information about the lake and its precarious situation had passed beyond the borders of Tajikistan and the territory of the former Soviet Union. The information that was available described a colossal dam of questionable stability which retained a vast reservoir of water. Reports suggested that, should a strong earthquake occur in the vicinity of the lake, the dangerous 'right bank', a partially collapsed body of earth and rock with a mass of roughly 3 cubic kilometers, might fall into the lake. There was speculation that this event would generate an enormous wave which would overtop the natural dam and possibly wash it away. Impact projections suggested that the flood could affect roughly 5 million people living along the Bartang, Panj and Amu-Darya rivers, a path traversing Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Hazards: Lake Sarez, contains 17 km3 of water behind a potentially unstable landslide dam, which is a dire hazard to as many as 5,000,000 people in the Amu Darya River Basin. Locally, earthquakes, debris flows, landslides, rock-falls, avalanches, and seasonal flooding occur frequently in the mountainous upper basin.


Financed by
International Development Association credit # 3388-TJ
Government of Switzerland trust fund grant # TF-023507

Parallel co-financing by
Government of Switzerland grant
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grant
Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) grant
FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance USA in-kind

Distribution: Ministry of Emergencies and Civil Defense of the Republic of Tajikistan
Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Tajikistan
World Bank Headquarters LSRMP Task Team
World Bank Resident Mission in Tajikistan
Government of Switzerland, SECO
United States Agency for International Development in Tajikistan
Aga Khan Development Network in Tajikistan
FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance USA in Tajikistan

Goal and scope: The goal of the project is to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters in the valleys of the Bartang and Panj rivers. The geographic area to be assisted includes (a) the Bartang River Valley and (b) the Panj River Valley from the point of the confluence of the Bartang and Panj Rivers down the Valley to the area where the Panj River flows out from the mountains, near the town of Moskovsky. To the extent feasible within time and funding constraints, the project will facilitate outburst flood preparedness in the Panj Valley beyond Moskovsky towards the Uzbek border.

Project Area: The target area for the project described in this proposal covers the vulnerable communities for 540 kilometers along the Bartang and Panj rivers from Lake Sarez to Moskovsky. Both FOCUS and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have developed flood routing models for the potential outburst flood, but neither is adequately detailed to determine how far down river the LSRMP should extend. The Bartang and Panj rivers flow through populated narrow valleys down from the Usoi dam to Moskovsky. At that place, the Panj River widens. However, a USACE model developed in 1998 indicates that a worst-case flood would reform beyond the wider valley areas, so that the very fast-moving flood crest would still be 5 meters high at the town of Termez on the Uzbekistan/Afghanistan border some 1400 kilometers below Sarez.

Lake Sarez Risk Mitigation Project Framework

The Government of Tajikistan (GoT) is implementing an initiative, developed with the World Bank that aims to mitigate the risk of an outburst flood from Lake Sarez. The project has four components, which include:

The first and third components are implemented using funds granted by the Government of Switzerland. The second component is implemented by Focus Humanitarian Assistance, using funds granted by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as in-kind services contributed by FOCUS. The fourth component is implemented using funds loaned by the World Bank.

Project Coordination and Management

The World Bank and the GoT have articulated the overall project framework, and responsibility for overall implementation was assigned to Sarez Agency (SA), which was a unit of the GoT's Ministry of Emergencies and Civil Defense. It was the task of the SA to coordinate the work of the several organizations involved in implementing the four components, and to provide periodic reports and accounts to the GoT and the World Bank. Unfortunately, the implementation level of the SA had been rated as unsatisfactory due to several reasons reflected in the Bank Appraisal Mission Aide Memoirs dated February and June 2002.

Efforts were made to bring the project implementation to a satisfactory path. To this effect, new implementation arrangements were agreed upon during the World Bank February Appraisal Mission, and a new Project Coordination Team started its activity on March 15, 2002 though Government Decree was issued and signed by President on July 3, 2002.

The total project cost is $4,290,000.00. Table 1 presents a breakdown per components.

Table 1 (in million USD)
No Component Component Cost
A Monitoring and Early Warning System 2,5
B Social Component 0,75
C Study of Long - Term Solutions 0,40
D Capacity Building 0,64
Total 4,29

Funding of each component is implemented in accordance with the Project Implementation Plan. Table 2 presents a general picture with regard to funding sources:

Table 2 (in million of USD)
Funding sources Total amount
Government of the Republic of Tajikistan 0,17
IDA Credit 0,47
Swiss Trust Fund 1,70
Swiss Grant (SECO) 1,20
TOTAL: 4,29

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