DUSHANBE -- The childhood village of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon is receiving a major overhaul as it is being transformed into a provincial capital.
Tajik officials have confirmed that a flurry of construction activity around Danghara, about 115 kilometers southeast of Dushanbe, is the result of plans to transform what was once a village into a regional administrative center.
The construction of new buildings, factories, and roads is already is underway in the area, which was previously known for its vast tracts of agricultural land.
The governor of Khatlon Province – where the Danghara district is located – said on February 7 that several "companies and organizations" have been assigned to turn the rural area into an urban center.
"Several construction projects are under way, but it won't happen this year or the next year," Governor Qurbon Hakimzoda said.
Hakimzoda did not provide a time frame for when Danghara will officially become a regional capital.
"It requires a lot of money," the governor said. "It won't be completed by the 30th anniversary of Tajikistan's Independence [in September 2021]. But it might be possible later. Time will tell."
The governor's remarks came a day after Shukrullo Bakhtiyor, the head of Danghara's Architecture and Development Department, said that an outline had been created for a major urbanization plan in the district.
But Bakhtiyor pointed out that the plan has not yet been fully approved.
Bakhtiyor said on February 6 that the dozens of projects envisaged in Danghara include the construction of a cultural palace.
A former Danghara governor who had spoken in 2017 about preliminary plans for the area said various construction projects were being considered within a 6,000-hectare area.
Dilovar Isozoda, head of the Khatlon Provincial Education Department, said earlier this month that a new, eight-story building for the headquarters of his agency is planned in Danghara.
In Tajikistan, headquarters of all provincial government agencies are located only in the regional capitals.
What remains unclear is whether Danghara will become the capital of Khatlon Province or the government will split the region into two smaller administrative areas with Danghara as the capital of one of them.
Khatlon Province was created in 1992 when the former Kulob and Qurghon-Teppa regions were combined together.
Reports about Danghara potentially becoming a regional hub come as no surprise in Tajikistan. Residents of the authoritarian president's home district say that it has been getting "special treatment" in recent years.
In 2012, the government opened the State University of Danghara. It was a rare move in a country where universities are usually located in major cities.
Already, a large complex with a white dome and tall pillars has been constructed in Danghara to house the new university.
In 2016, the prestigious Khatlon Medical University was officially launched in Danghara. It is one of only two medical schools now operating in Tajikistan. The other is in the capital, Dushanbe.
Earlier, the government closed a medical university in Tajikistan's second largest city, Khujand, saying there was no need for it.
Emphasizing the growing importance of the village where he was born, President Rahmon hosted Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in Danghara in March 2010 to celebrate Norouz.
The lavish event included a concert in Danghara's newly renovated 10,000-seat stadium and a street food festival nearby.
Since urbanization efforts began in the area, investment has continued to pour into the Danghara district -- which is now home to some 160,000 people.
New projects in recent years have included a textile complex, an oil refinery, a cement factory, and an emulsion explosives factory -- creating thousands of much needed jobs.
Unemployment is a major issue in Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia with some 9 million residents.
Rahmon has maintained a tight rule in Tajikistan since 1992. He is often criticized for giving important government positions to those who come from Danghara and the wider area of Kulob.
The interior and defense ministries, the state security committee, border guard services, the state television and radio committee, and other important agencies in Rahmon's government are often controlled by people born in the president's home region.