In what has been billed as a historic development, Tajikistan will later this month start stemming the flow of the Vakhsh River as part of construction work on the Rogun mega-dam.
Moscow-based ferghana.ru has reported, citing a source in Tajikistan’s energy sector, that a ceremony to begin diverting the river will be attended by President Emomali Rahmon on October 29.
Construction duties on Rogun were earlier this year assigned to Italian company Salini Impregilo. It is estimated that the project will cost $3.9 billion to complete, although it is far from clear where Dushanbe is to source such a vast quantity of funds.
The website cites energy industry insiders as saying that work on the Vakhsh River will not affect existing hydroelectric facilities downstream.
Salini Impregilo explained the purpose of diverting the Vakhsh — as well as how it will be done — in its project page on Rogun.
“The diversion of the Vakhsh River … will be done with confluence of two diversion tunnels in a mountainside in order to keep the foundations of the dam dry. It is a very complex task that, because of the strength of the river, will only be able to be done during the winter months when the mountains are covered in snow and the water level is lower,” the company said on its website.
The project is broken down into four components, with the most expensive one involving the building of a 335-meter-high rockfill dam — the tallest in the world — which will entail costs of around $1.95 billion.
Salini Impregilo boasts on its website of significant experience in major dam-building projects. One listed on its website is a €2.5 billion ($2.8 billion) hydroelectric plant in Ethiopia with an installed capacity of 2,200 megawatts. That is relatively small fry compared to Rogun, however, which is designed to incorporate six 600 megwatt turbines to make up for a colossal total installed capacity of 3,600 megawatts.
This latest anticipated development will serve as an interesting test case in neighboring Uzbekistan’s apparent desire to pursue a diplomatic entente with Tajikistan. Uzbekistan has for many years vociferously objected to Tajikistan’s plan to build a giant dam across the rivers that serve as sources of irrigation for its important agricultural sector.
But that the intransigent stance adopted by Tashkent may have softened somewhat following the recent death of Uzbekistan’s long-standing leader Islam Karimov.
A statement issued by Rahmon’s office following a visit to Dushanbe by Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov in late September hinted that the two nations are at least entertaining dialogue on the difficult water resources question.
“Water and energy, and transport and logistics, as well as issues the mutual [cross-border movement] of citizens were identified as areas requiring active constructive cooperation,” the statement read.