Pressure rising on Kyrgyz government as energy crisis grows

By bne IntelliNews December 18, 2012

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Residents of Bishkek rallied in the city centre on December 17 after gas supplies were cut off for a fourth consecutive day during the coldest snap of the year so far. With power blackouts now also plaguing the country, the shaky governing coalition is facing yet another threat.

Most districts of Bishkek have been without gas since December 14, after supplies from neighbouring Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were cut off. As temperatures fell below -20C, residents have turned to electric heating, but that is putting unbearable pressure on the capital's power network, and resulting in blackouts in parts of the city.

Power company Severelectro announced on December 17 that it has set limits on electricity consumption in parts of Bishkek to prevent blowouts damaging equipment. An estimated 80% of residents are without gas and 50% lacking electricity.

Deputy Minister of Energy and Industry Rayimbek Mamyrov told a press conference that gas exports from Kazakhstan would resume "next week". However, he added: "[W]e cannot guarantee this term, as it depends on our suppliers."

Kazakhstan's KazTransGas, which is owed around $3m by Kyrgyzgas, has cut exports to the country from 50,000 to 30,000 cubic metres an hour, while Uzbekistan has cut off exports altogether due to poor weather conditions at home.

One demonstrator told state news agency Kabar, "If the mayor of Bishkek and energy minister do not manage to do their jobs it is time to resign."

Energy is a highly political issue in Kyrgyzstan, where a rise in electricity and heating tariffs were the trigger for the April 2010 revolution. Now, the failure to supply power in Bishkek has brought the coalition government - already under pressure due to Kyrgyzstan's fractious political and demographic situation - under fire from both the public and the opposition.

"The government's fate might be decided this winter," opposition MP Kenzhebek Bokoyev claimed to a parliamentary session on December 17, according to 24.kg. "Had the majority coalition done its job, there wouldn't be such a situation."

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