Tajikistan endangered? A new year, a deadly new energy crisis
Until recently, most parts of Tajiksitan have had almost no electricity: only six hours a day. But at least what came during those six hours was steady. Now, the situation becomes worse.
Turkmenistan cut off electricity for Tajiksitan in the beginning of the year due to an ongoing disagreement between the latter and Uzbekistan on transit electricity prices. neweurasia reports on the conflict between the two countries:
Uzbekistan is demanding 10 percent of the $0.03 per kilowatt paid by Tajikistan to Turkmenistan. The Caspian Sea state was contracted to deliver 1.3 billion kilowatts of electricity to Tajikistan for December 2008-January 2009. Turkmenistan suspended electricity exports during transit negotiations between the Tajiks and Uzbeks. In the absence of an agreement, the exports have not been resumed.
Meanwhile, the electricity monopolist Barqi Tojik reported that beginning from January 27th all major cities, including Dushanbe, will undergo electricity rationing. This comes as quite a shock since this past Fall President Rahmon promised the population of the capital and other major cities that electricity rationing would not happen.
neweurasia has published the general details of the rationing program for Dushanbe:
From now on Dushanbe will receive electricity only 15 hours a day. The schedule is not prepared yet but most probably the city won’t be provided with electricity 6 hours during the nights (from 11 pm to 5 am) and 3 hours during the days.
This was reported by most of the media agencies. However, for the time being Dushanbe still has electricity; Barki Tojik probably decided to use the remaining water in Nurek reservoir for generating of electricity.
Rahmon’s original decision was made in favor of urban populations: there are more apartment-buildings in the cities which are difficult to heat during the winter. In comparison, houses in the countryside have alternative heating in the form of wood, coal etc. He was confident that the electricity from Turkmenistan would be enough to live out this winter. However, things change quickly in the Central Asian energy market.
Michael Hancock from Registan observed the latest development; confused, he is wondering precisely what is going on:
Uzbekistan has shut off the gas to Tajikistan, and now Turkmenistan isn’t sending electricity. Personally, I find the infrastructure systems of Central Asia very confusing. Thanks to the Soviet Union, the republics originally were intertwined. Perhaps this was to further the Soviet goal of unity and solidarity, but now it just makes it that much more difficult when countries decide to cut each other out.
Matt Stone from The Global Buzz thinks that the recent developments in Central Asia are part of a bigger conflict between Russia and the West. According to his logic, in order to prevent the Central Asia energy exporting countries from involvement in the construction of the Nabucco pipeline, Russia has made agreements with these countries to buy gas for higher prices – “European prices”.
Regardless of whether Stone is correct, what’s clear is that Russia’s decision has had a cascading effect: Uzbekistan decided to raise prices of gas for Tajiksitan and Kyrgyzstan from $145 to $240 this year. Stone interprets the decision of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to cut off gas and electricity simultaneously as a signal to Tajiksitan:
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are the source of most of Central Asia’s drinking and irrigation water. Both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan rely heavily on water from the high mountains of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to irrigate their vast cotton fields, an important export for both countries. Jointly tightening the screws on Tajikistan could send the message that they have leverage over Dushanbe in the event that it restricts the flow of water downstream.
Tajikistan now finds itself with little electricity and gas. This endangers the social, political and economic stability of the entire country. If the import of Turkmen electricity is not restored shortly, Tajikistan will be flung into a humanitarian catastrophe.
Also posted on Global Voices.