“Once upon a time there was a valley replete with strong and sturdy cypress trees and the people who lived there were jolly and merry because at the conclusion of their eight- hour work day the valley was theirs to enjoy. Their economic welfare and job security went hand-in-hand. However, suddenly a fierce wind swept through the valley and the people’s good fortune was swept away and they were left unemployed and without life’s subsidies they had grown accustomed to.”
For the past twenty years, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, this has been a familiar story for the residents of this famous place of rest and relaxation.
Varzob is a lush valley nestled in the mountains to the northeast of Dushanbe. Its recreational notoriety is similar to that of Mount Darband north of Tehran, or the Paghman Gardens north of Kabul. Residents from Dushanbe flock to Varzob on the weekends in order to rest, recreate and escape the warmer temperatures of the capital. It is not uncommon to see holiday-makers eating, drinking, dancing and carrying on conversations in the gardens and summer villas that dot the banks of the Varzob River. The sumptuous smells of lamb kabab and grilled trout waft from the outdoor teahouses and restaurants, which also dot the banks of the river, and fill the air with aroma of delicious tastes.
Many of the gardens and villas throughout the Varzob River valley are owned by residents of Dushanbe, who maintain them as second homes. Many of the local people run the restaurants and teahouses in Varzob throughout the summer, and then travel to Dushanbe during the colder months in search of work. Recently, a better road linking Varzob to Dushanbe has been built, but local residents complain that the toll which is equivalent of two euros is beyond their means.
Other problems persist as well. The most notable is pollution. Raw sewage and trash originating in Varzob eventually reach Dushanbe through river flow, and bring with them infections and viruses and multiple diseases such as typhoid and jaundice. Even though water is filtered before it reaches Dushanbe, some experts believe many of these infections often reach the capital and contaminate the water supply.
In the multimedia report on this page we visit Varzob and hear from experts and residents about the problem of pollution.