Farab district of Lebap province is located on the eastern border of Turkmenistan. It stretches for two hundred kilometers along the right bank of Amudarya River. The further you go down the river towards the north, the more high places can be seen. Since time immemorial, there have been used lagyms or underground channels to divert water from the river for the expansion of irrigated lands because of the rugged relief. Scientists compare these structures with the tunnels of complex systems of deep underground wells that people call Kyariz. Murad Pendzhiev, Doctor of Philology, has most fully explored the characteristics of the ancient hydro-technical constructions built in this region.
The lagym located in the village of Osty is the closest one to the administrative center of Farab district. In the past, water flowed to this lagym directly from the river by gravity. Later, when the bed of Amudarya River got a new shape, water began to flow there from an open irrigation canal. The ancient hydro-technical structure begins in a deep ravine. A huge cave was dug in there to allow precious water to flow through the winding half-kilometer long underground gallery towards the north. There are plots of land cultivated by tenants for wheat and cotton in those areas. As in the old times, these cultivated areas are irrigated through the lagym. By the way, the ancient history of the village of Osty is evidenced by the fact that there was found an ancient round-shaped settlement dating back to the 1st century AD that the village was named after.
A little further from the administrative center of the district, there is the village of Khodjakenepsy. The lagym located within its territory is twice as long as the same old hydro-technical structure in the village of Osty. In addition, the gallery of this lagym is divided into two channels. Water from this lagym irrigates hundreds of household plots of tenants of Khodjakenepsy village.
It is noteworthy that in both Khodjakenepsy and Osty the underground structures have open spaces in certain distances. They were dug on purpose by ancient hydro engineers to facilitate lifting of soil and supply of air to the tunnel, as well as for the subsequent preventive cleaning of the lagym from silt. Such large diameter pits were covered with tree branches and earth, thus protecting them from sand storms.
In the old days, all the works on construction of lagyms were carried out manually. Picks, shovels, leather bags to lift soil to the surface, wooden fixtures of arches were the primary tools. Old masters used oil lamps to work in the dark caves. The dip of the bottom was measured by the device looking like a stack filled with water. The arched walls of the tunnel prevented their collapse. Upon completion, a trial run of water was carried out. If congestions were detected, the dip of the channel was corrected.
Obviously, only physically strong and hardy people, who were persistent and patient, were selected for construction of lagyms. After all, they had to work long hours in a narrow space, moving mostly on all fours and crawling.
The work of ancient artisans has not lost relevance even in our days. The original folk hydro-technology continues to serve people. Built in ancient times, the Farab lagyms (the only ones in Turkmenistan that retained their functional significance) serve as clear evidence of the folk tradition of careful treatment of water resources.