Sardobes (dew mounds) in Turkmenistan: restoration of water use traditions in the agricultural sector

Sardobes (dew mounds) in Turkmenistan: restoration of water use traditions in the agricultural sector

Water was in all times the main value in the desert. And along the Great Silk Road that connected Europe to Asia, there were sardobes – pools with clean drinking water – throughout waterless deserts and steppes that could quench the thirst of wanderers, caravans and pack animals.

Hydraulic constructions consisted of a pool buried in the ground and covered with a stone arch for collecting and storing rain and groundwater. Sardobes were considered objects of strategic importance, and were widespread in all directions of the caravan route in Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey, etc.

Modern experts, in view of the urgent need for rational water use due to the ever-increasing shortage of fresh water on our planet, are interested in these ancient hydraulic structures. In the northern region of Turkmenistan they are being reconstructed by local farmers in the livestock farm Garagum with the support provided by the Environmental Management Programme of the Central Asian Regional Environmental Center.

The pilot project aims not only to restore the hydro-technical infrastructure that was long ago outdated, but also to ensure sustainable pasture rotation in this farm.

Thanks to the restored sardobes, sheep and cattle will not have to migrate in search of water and food, which will prevent trampling and desertification of the nearby area of 105.000 hectares.

In addition, it is planned to install a solar panel on the site for generating electricity, and protect the area of collection and runoff of water into sardoeas with forest belts.

In an arid area, sardobes in Turkmenistan can become an additional local aid for development of individual farms and, possibly, small etraps located in the foothill zone or near the still existing rivers. A project in the Dashoguz region could be the start of a campaign to restore sardobes throughout the country, which will be another step towards the revival and application of the experience of distant ancestors in the careful and efficient use of such eternal value as water.