By Aynur Karimova
Uzbekistan has reiterated its position on the construction of the Rogun hydro power plant in Tajikistan.
The country's foreign ministry said that the Uzbek side earlier stated its principle position at a meeting of the government representatives of Central Asian countries to discuss the draft Work Bank report titled “Key issues for further consideration of proposed project Rogun hydro power station and issues of use of trans-boundary water resources,” which was held in Almaty on July 14-18, 2014.
Commenting on Tajikistan's Energy and Water Resources Minister Usmonali Usmonzoda's statement on July 22 – that there are no official complaints from Uzbekistan on the results of evaluation of international experts on the Rogun project – the ministry responded by publishing the full text of a statement by Uzbek delegation head Rustam Azimov, in which he said that the construction of Rogun HPP does not meet commonly adopted international standards.
"Conclusions of the consultants and panel of experts on Rogun HPP are absolutely unacceptable for Uzbekistan," he said. Azimov also noted that Uzbekistan would never, under any circumstances, provide support for this project. Uzbekistan believes that the project poses a threat to the fragile ecological balance of the whole Central Asian region.
“We cannot accept that after three years of studies, consultants and experts failed to develop specific answers to the following vitally important questions concerning the project: exposure to man-made disasters related to geological conditions of the site, potential mudflows, salt dome, etc.; ensuring the rights of countries in the middle and lower reaches of the Amudarya to guaranteed volumes and regime of water flow, particularly, during vegetation season; environmental risks for the entire region; a review of effective alternative approaches to resolving the winter power shortage problem of Tajikistan,” the ministry said.
The construction plan of the Rogun Dam dates back to the 1960s and was one of the three proposed hydro power projects on the Vakhsh River. Nurek and Sangtuda were completed, but Rogun was not. The Rogun Dam is planned to be 335 meters high with a capacity of 3,600 megawatts per year. If constructed, the Rogun Dam will be the tallest dam in the world.
The Rogun HPP is seen in Tajikistan as a solution to its energy problem and a tool for economic growth. If the project is implemented, Tajikistan will be able to generate about 13 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. This will not only help the country to meet its domestic needs but also make Tajikistan a major exporter of electricity.
However, the construction of the Rogun HPP will not be easy. Tajikistan is confronted with the economic and political obstacles of neighboring countries, Uzbekistan in particular.
The economy of Uzbekistan is heavily dependent on agriculture. More than 90 percent of its fresh water is currently used for irrigation purposes. Tashkent argues that the Rogun HPP will cause problems for Uzbekistan's agricultural sector and the formation of a giant reservoir behind the Rogun Dam would affect the flow of water to its cotton fields.
Several experts say that additional regulation of water in the Amu Darya River would have a serious negative impact on agricultural production as crop growing in Uzbekistan is water intensive and extra water availability in the winter does not make up for the reduction in growing-season irrigation capacity. Others argue that Tashkent fears that the Rogun HPP would give Tajikistan significant control over the Uzbek economy and crucial geopolitical authority in the region.
Despite the fact that World Bank experts say the Rogun HPP would not threaten regional security and stability, the Uzbek authorities claim that the massive dam would have an adverse environmental impact and induce the possibility of higher scale earthquakes in an already seismically active area. Uzbek experts say that a large earthquake would destroy the Rogun Dam and dozens of cities in Tajikistan, while Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan would be flooded.
Aynur Karimova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Aynur_Karimova
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