Water disputes raise tensions in FSU

The Toktogul hydroelectric power plant in Kyrgyzstan has reported low water levels. The plant is one of the largest in Central Asia and currently dams the Naryn River, and is part of the Naryn-Sry Darya cascade. Generating over 1,200 MW of power a day, it is the largest power plant in Kyrgyzstan and is one of the selected plants to export electricity to India as part of the CASA-1000 project. Low water levels means that water shortages for Uzbek cotton farmers downstream on the Syr Darya are very likely. Kyrgyz authorities stated that the reservoir only accumulated 8 billion cubic meters of water, instead of the 11 billion required for normal generation. Not only is this bad timing for Uzbek farmers, it is poorly timed for the completion of the CASA-1000 project, especially when deliveries were expected to begin this year.

Water disputes have long been a source of contention in Central Asia. With rivers often having major watersheds in one country’s territory and flowing largely through another country’s territory, the economic impact of creating even one hydroelectric dam is enormous. According to experts, it is this factor which has depressed the agricultural and power generating industries, which matches the focus of most foreign investors on energy exploration and production and mining. Most Central Asian governments have reacted by introducing high-yield and drought resistant crops.

Tajikistan has also faced its problems with water – after the government finished constructing the Rogun hydroelectric dam (another facility for the CASA-1000 project), Uzbek cotton fields and floodplains were damaged beyond repair, necessitating costly irrigation projects. Uzbekistan consumes more than 50% of the Amu and Syr Darya river’s flow for its cotton industry, a significant percentage of its economy.

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News Briefs:

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