The problem of the construction of the largest hydroelectric power plant in Central Asia

The problem of the construction of the largest hydroelectric power plant in Central Asia

By Daniel Rozanov

The independence and the transition to a market economy led to new for Central Asian water and energy problems. A key element in this regard are the projects for the construction of the Rogun HPP in Tajikistan and Kambarata-1 in the Kyrgyz Republic. Both republics are mountain, river and have great hydropower potential. One of the problems is its use in the transit of these rivers: Uzbekistan, located in the lower reaches, is categorically opposed to the two major construction projects. Uzbek political establishment more than a year trying to block the implementation as Rogun and Kambarata projects through various international forums such as the World Water Forum isammity UN. The main arguments are the concerns as seismic destruction of dams and flood Uzbek farmland and towns, as well as the selection and lack of water during the filling of reservoirs, as well as an active winter discharge, which can lead to years of lack of water for irrigation in Uzbekistan. But, apparently, Uzbek diplomacy still not be able to keep the construction of hydropower facilities.


Such a conclusion can be drawn by analyzing two important events that have a two-year difference. The first - an agreement between the governments of Kyrgyzstan and Russia on the construction of Kambarata-1, signed during the official visit of Vladimir Putin to Bishkek in September 2012. The second event - the publication in September 2014 of the results of evaluation studies carried out with the support of the World Bank, for Rogun, which actually give the project the green light. The study began in 2011, commissioned by the Tajik side to conduct independent technical and economic, social and environmental assessments. They were not only pave the way for a possible construction, but also to make an independent verdict, to tip the scales in favor of the Uzbek or Tajik side.


At the same time it should be noted that neither Kyrgyzstan nor Tajikistan alone can realize large hydropower projects. Because the main reason for the Rogun and Kambarata-1 were still built, is the lack of their own financial resources, and the lack of large foreign investors.


The first and most logical investor assumed to Russia, which still is the key external player that is able to determine the future of these two projects. It is Russia's unwillingness to take on economic and political risks of construction of the largest hydroelectric power station in the region has long been a determining factor in the fact that these objects remained unfinished. For example, on Rogun HPP three agreements were signed between the Russian and Tajik side: in 1994, 2000 and 2004, but the construction of the project was never completed. A similar situation occurred in the case of the Kyrgyz project. Negotiations on Russia's participation in the construction of Kambarata-1 were still in the 90s. However, the first inter-governmental agreement on the construction of Kambarata-1 was signed in 2009 alone, more under President Bakiev and Dmitry Medvedev. Russia has pledged to Kyrgyzstan several loans, the largest of which - 1.7 billion. Dollars. Must-have been allocated for the construction of the power plant. However, as we know, Bakiyev was overthrown and fled the country, and the main tranche of Russian loan has not been selected. During the reign of the clan Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan's foreign policy had been a big roll in the direction of the US and China. A number of energy projects in the country implemented by Chinese companies, but China has failed to attract the construction of Kambarata-1. As the same basic reasons why Russia then refused to invest in Kyrgyzstan, most experts considered the refusal of Bishkek withdrawal of US troops from the airport "Manas".


Kyrgyz leadership changed, but interest in the project is preserved, as well as to continue negotiations with Russia, what claimed more temporary head of the Republic Roza Otunbayeva in 2010. To date, Russia still has pledged to build Verhnenarynsky HPP cascade and Kambarata HPP-1. Apparently, it is worth also be linked to an integration policy pursued by Vladimir Putin: Kyrgyzstan in May 2015 plans to fully join the Eurasian Economic Union. And because the Kyrgyz side could well agree with Moscow hydropower construction, coupled with its accession to this geopolitical project.


Regarding the Rogun hydropower plant: positive expert opinion of the World Bank makes the project internationally recognized, however, does not solve the problem of finding sources of funding. Tajikistan is now annually allocates a significant portion of its budget for the construction of Rogun, but not enough to complete the project. As a potential investor analysts see not only Russia, but also China. But now China is more interested in gas supplies from Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, which, moreover, is an important transit corridor for Turkmen gas supplied to China. In the case of Tajikistan, which is also considered as a potential member of the EAEC, the option "HPP in exchange for integration" is possible. But in the current Russian economic crisis such large projects can be Russia can not afford or postponed indefinitely. For example, already announced a possible revision of the cost Verhnenarynskogo cascade hydropower stations in Kyrgyzstan, which is a fraction of the cost required for the construction of Kambarata. At the same time, signed December 23, 2014 the Treaty of Accession of Kyrgyzstan to the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union allows optimistic view on the implementation of the Kyrgyz-Russian agreement. The question of attracting foreign investment in the Rogun project still remains open.









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