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Tajikstan Reinforces Riverbanks To Prevent Loss Of Land To Afghanistan

A bridge over the Panj River on the Tajik-Afghan border

A bridge over the Panj River on the Tajik-Afghan border

KULOB, Tajikistan -- Officials in Tajikistan's southern Khatlon Province say they will plant apricot orchards on territory recently returned to Tajikistan by Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Heavy floods in 2005 caused the Panj River -- which marks the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan -- to leave about 1,500 hectares of Tajik territory on Afghanistan's side of the river.

Khujamurod Fazliddinov, the head of Khatlon's Hamadoni district, told RFE/RL the government invested 93 million somoni ($19.4 million) into fortifying the river banks and for planting apricot orchards on 475 hectares of the land that was returned to Tajikistan.

Officials hope the work will keep the Panj River from changing its course in the future.

Last year, Tajik border guards regained control of some 35,000 hectares of land in the Shurabad district bordering Afghanistan.

Tajik-Afghan border disputes recently gained importance after reports of Afghan poachers and drug smugglers illegally entering Tajikistan.

Some of the mountainous areas close to the Tajik-Afghan border in the Shurobod district still contain Soviet-era land mines.