Khorog, Tajikistan, June 2021: The UN-Habitat Urban Lab completed a two week visit to Khorog to explore ways to turn it into a resilient town for Phase I of the Integrated Spatial Plan for Environmental and Socio-Economic Resilience project. This project is part of the Khorog Urban Resilience Programme (KURP), a five-year planning and initiative to set up the structures, systems and capacity to transform Khorog, promoting sustainable economic growth and investment, funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

This project is the first collaboration between UN-Habitat’s Urban Planning and Design Lab (Urban Lab), and the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), part of the Aga Khan Development Agency (AKDN). The partnership brings together UN-Habitat’s urban planning and environmental resilience expertise, mobilisation of the Sustainable Development Goals and global best practice, and AKAH’s holistic approach to habitat planning.

Khorog, the administrative centre of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), is one of the highest-altitude peri-urban settlements in Central Asia and the largest town in the Pamir mountains. It was planned for  15,000 residents but the current population is double that number and continues to grow. It is on the main route through Tajikistan, from Afghanistan to the rest of the GBAO and to China.

The project looks at the city’s facilities, including schools, hospitals, public spaces and transport networks to understand how well the city serves its population. Assessments undertaken by the Urban Lab team included a walkability and accessibility assessment and a study of capacity and demand, to see which facilities could support more people.

The team also assessed the potential impact of natural hazards  including landslides, avalanches, rockfalls, flooding and existing land use including under-used, industrial and vacant land, connectivity and the potential use of the river that runs through the town centre.  These assessments helped to identify areas  that could accommodate a higher population considering the existing facilities.

The team then looked at how to integrate these challenges into plans to guide development in a sustainable way. Whilst on mission, the team participated in a number of community engagement sessions to understand the challenges facing civil society. A full training session day and workshop day took place with key stakeholders from national, regional local government, civil society and academia. These activities fed into the project plans and recommendations which were shared as part of a Resilient Khorog Steering Committee.

Commenting on the recommendations, made by UN-Habitat the Governor of GBAO, Yodgor Fayzov noted: “The urban analysis, findings and recommendations presented here are incredibly important and need to be prioritised  to achieve the goal that we are striving for. It needs multiple inputs, resources, energy, time, and lots of investment. And my hope in this regard is that together with UN-Habitat, partner agencies, like SECO and AKDN, and with the support of the government we will be successful in transforming Khorog into a resilient city for future generations.” 

The Chief Executive Officer of AKAH, Hadi Husani thanked UN Habitat for the results of various studies and outcomes, stating: "This was a tremendous exercise and you have been able to visualise and give us a sense of Khorog, which, in many ways, has not been seen before…giving us a sense of the analytical tools that will inform the Town Planning - the ultimate output of this exercise"

A story on the mission was broadcast on local television - (click here for a link to the broadcast).