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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- Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has increased his lead as more results from the April 5 elections are counted and processed. The gain is only marginal, and he and Ashraf Ghani look more and more likely to be heading for a runoff next month. The latest numbers show Abdullah with 44% of the vote, while Ghani has about 33.2% in the partial results. In third place, Zalmay Rassoul has 10.4%. Final results are not due until May 14th. Both candidates have vowed to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States upon their election.
- Moscow is moving quickly to secure the Kyrgyz energy industry. With Gazprom’s purchase of KyrgyzGazProm last week, and Rosneft’s purchase of a controlling stake in Manas International Airport last month indicate that the Russian energy industry’s grip is tightening over the country as it prepares to enter the Customs Union. Russia has also acquired the state-run Bishkek Fuel Company which owns some of the largest gas monopolies within the Bishkek region. New Prime Minister Atambayev has been encouraging the rapprochement with Russia, probably to encourage absorption into the potentially lucrative Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
- Kyrgyz state authorities have released a video to the BBC on their efforts to combat bride kidnapping, a common practice whereby brides are abducted and marriages take place against their will. Many within the country defend bride kidnapping is an ancient Kyrgyz tradition, but there are some researchers who believe the practice has only become popular within the past few decades.
- Economy Minister of Armenia Vaghram Avanesian said that the country will be joining the Russian-led Customs Union in the next 1-2 months. Talks between the Russian government and Armenian ministers will resume on April 29.
- Vice President of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi declared on Saturday that Iran is currently redesigning its Arak heavy water reactor to limit the amount of plutonium it can make. The reactor was the crux of skeptics’ objections to the Iran nuclear deal, but with its concession, experts have remarked that this is a highly positive indicator for the July deadline. Salehi, who heads the Atominc Energy Organization of Iran, said that Iran has proposed to redesign Arak to produce one-fifth of the plutonium initially planned for it. This comes after Iran received its fifth installment of its $4.2 billion frozen assets has agreed upon its interim nuclear deal between Tehran and the P5+1 powers.