If a visitor just stayed in Ashgabat and never left the city limits then they would never think that it is literally an oasis in the middle of the water parched Karakum Desert. Fountains are bursting out clean water and offer some much-needed relief from the heat. The task of keeping the city and its surrounding parks both clean and green is a daily battle for the small army of city workers.
It doesn’t take more than a 5 minute drive from the city center to see the picture above. The Kopet Dang mountains in the south of the city mark where the vast Karakum Desert really begins. Here, there are no water fountains, air-conditioned bus stations or green parks. The newly planted evergreen saplings appear to be an effort to liven up the place, but it’s hard to think that they have any chance of a long life without water to feed them. It’s a hard life here in the desert even if you are in a country rich in resources.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has a bold vision of doing the nearly impossible. He wants to transform the desert into a lush and green forest. His program is currently throwing money at the problem. This vision is a positive one that many would love to be brought to fruition, but it’s not too hard to see how this one ends.