The Pamir Mountains and geothermal sources of energy

By Saidmir Shomansurov, doctor of biology and plant physiologist, department of potatoes and vegetables, Pamir Experimental Agricultural Station, Tajik Academy of Science, Tajikistan ; and Munira Navruzbekova, doctor of biology and plant physiologist, faculty of biology, Khorog State University, Tajik Ministry of Education, Tajikistan

Some 93% of the territory of Tajikistan is covered by mountains. Even though only a small part of the flat area in the country is suitable for cultivation, agriculture is the main source of income for almost 70% of the population. Most of the agricultural crops that are produced go to household tables, and some of it is sold at local markets, which partly contributes to the country’s food security. One of the largest regions of Tajikistan is the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. It contains the majestic, snow-capped Pamir Mountains (or ‘the Pamirs’) that scrape the sky, as well as wide valleys, bone-dry deserts and lakes and rivers filled with clear blue water. For hundreds of years, people have called these mountains – among the highest in the world – the “Poy-e Mehr”. Presumably a translation from Persian, it literally means “the foot of the sun” or “the roof of the world”. Since Soviet times, the Pamir highlands have been known as Gorno-Badakhshan. The Pamirs are known for their drought and cold climate, high intensity of solar insulation and high level of ultraviolet radiation. On average, the region’s sunshine duration is between 2,600 and 3,000 hours per year. The average January temperature up to 2,000 metres above sea level is 8°C, and the average temperature in July is around 25°C. These conditions cause particular physiological and biological peculiarities in the local plant and animal life. Therefore, economic development and agricultural farming need to take into account the natural climate of the high-mountain area. Only 711,100 ha, or 22.6% of the total land area, is available for agriculture. Considering the limited land resources of the high-lying Pamirs, it is a real challenge to provide the population with ecologically pure food. Given the conditions, the most widespread agricultural practices are potato growing, yak farming, grain growing and gardening. Vegetables are grown mainly in the western Pamirs (at an elevation up to 2,500 metres above sea level), where land resources are very scarce, and harvesting crops is possible only in the summer season. For practical reasons, vegetables from other regions of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are sold in the markets of Gorno-Badakhshan. Beekeeping, fish farming and especially poultry farming only . A major issue is that the greater part of poultry farming production has been imported from other  countries. Therefore, the Pamir population is in dire need of ecologically pure  meat, vegetables and fish products. Tajikistan has a significant amount of hydro- mineral sources. In the south-western and south-eastern parts of the Pamirs alone, there are some 70 sources with chemical and gas characteristics. The Pamirs are also a rich source of mineral waters. Recently, because of the energy crisis and a lack of electricity and fuel, the use of non-traditional sources of energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal energy, has become a real necessity. The main sources of geothermal sources of energy are located at an altitude of more than 2,500 metres above sea level. The geothermal water sources of the Pamirs are a gift from nature, and their energy can be used for different purposes. In our early experiments, the geothermal sources used to heat greenhouses were covered with different polyethene films. In these experiments, vegetables, citrus plants and flowers were grown in the greenhouses throughout the year. Because of the long-term vegetation period of cucumbers and tomato plants, which took up between 30 and 40 percent of the greenhouse area, we could grow greens during this time. Currently, one of the major problems facing the world is nature preservation. This issue is deeply connected with biodiversity and the challenge of protecting ecosystems as a whole. Therefore, it is crucial to explore different methods of restoring natural ecosystems. Owing to specific climatic, geographical and ecological conditions, the natural ecosystems of the Pamirs are very sensitive to any infringement of the ecological balance. Under these conditions, extreme factors such as low temperature, drought and the high level of ultraviolet radiation have a negative impact on the vital activity of organisms and on seed reproduction. Special approaches are required to preserve and maintain biodiversity under such conditions. One of the methods of rapidly reproducing rare and endangered plant species in the high-lying Pamirs is to use geothermal energy to heat greenhouses. Recent experiments have shown that geothermal greenhouses can be used to reproduce rare and vanishing plant species. Our experiments were conducted in geothermal greenhouses at an altitude of 3,580 metres above sea level (in the village of Jelondi, located 125 km from Khorog, the centre of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region). In our experiments, we tested the reproduction of 24 kinds of rare and endangered plant species during every season of the year. For our experiments, we used the seeds, tubers, rhizomes and shanks of the following species:

  1. Betula murgabica vassif.
  2. Bunium badachschanicum Kam.
  3. Pyrus cajon Zapr.
  4. Punica granatum L.
  5. Eremurus olgae
  6. Delphinium brunonianum
  7. Iris darwasica
  8. Biota orientalis (L.) Endl.
  9. Allium paulii Vved.
  10. Allium fedschenkoanum
  11. Allium oschanini Fedtsch.
  12. Allium zaprjagajevii
  13. Allium shugnanicum Vved.
  14. Tussilago farfara L.
  15. Amygdalus bucharica Korsh. M. Pop.
  16. Juniperus schugnanica
  17. Jurinea darvasica
  18. Taraxacum badachschanicum
  19. Ostrowskia magnifica
  20. Primula macrophylla Don.
  21. Platanus orientalis L.
  22. Fritillaria eduardii
  23. Prunus tadzikistanica Zapr.
  24. Tulipa kaufmanniana

It is important to note that the seeds of the majority of tested kinds of plants had a low germination rate, and rooting occurred mainly thanks to tubers and rhizomes.

Among the kinds of plants that reproduced rapidly were Tussilago farfara L., which developed a leaf area of about 101 cm2. Juniperus schugnanica Kom. had a comparatively high ability to reproduce. In our presentation, we will discuss the possibility of growing vegetables throughout the year. In our experiments, we also used geothermal sources of energy to grow cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes and onions. The productivity of cucumber under the usual polyethene film was 15 kg/m2; for tomato plants, it was 11 kg/m2. The productivity of radishes and onions in greenhouses equalled 3.3 kg/m2 and 6.7 kg/m2, respectively. Thus, the geothermal sources of energy in the high-mountain conditions of the Pamirs can be used for different purposes, including reproducing rare and endangered plant species and cultivating algae and vegetables throughout the year.

P.S. Beekeeping, fish farming and especially poultry farming only developed as a  branch of agriculture .


Citer ce billet
Stéphanie Rouanet (2017, 23 octobre). The Pamir Mountains and geothermal sources of energy. Les carnets du Labex ITEM. Consulté le 22 mai 2024, à l’adresse