Tajik government-affiliated clerics discourage Rogun dam construction workers from Ramadan fasting

Tajik government-affiliated clerics discourage Rogun dam construction workers from Ramadan fasting
The plan is to construct Rogun dam in southwestern Tajikistan, on the Vakhsh River upstream from the Nurek Dam. Hydropower outages at Nurek plunge Tajiks into darkness.
By bne IntelliNews May 24, 2018

Muslim clerics in Tajikistan have advised Tajiks working on the construction of the Rogun hydropower project to skip Ramadan, echoing earlier comments by the country’s President Emomali Rahmon, AFP reported on May 22.

Tajik authorities have a track record of discouraging religious expression and cracking down on Islamic customs and clothing in the Central Asian nation of 8.7mn. This time, however, the authorities appear to be worrying over the risky do-or-die 3,600 MW hydropower project, to feature the world's tallest dam. A spokesman for the Tajik religious affairs committee told AFP on May 22 that the their comments regarding the Ramadan fasting holiday were “issued primarily for the safety of workers engaged in construction” of the Rogun dam. “They work at a great altitude in difficult conditions, as well as underground,” he added.

Tajikistan raised $500mn from its inaugural Eurobond, which priced at 7.125% for a 10-year term last September with the promise of using its proceeds on Rogun construction works. With plans to issue more bonds this year and commitments to pay back what it borrowed last year, the authoritarian Tajik government might feel inclined to micromanage the lives of the construction workers. The success of the dam will determine both the fate of energy security in the country as well as its ability to pay off its debts.

The ex-Soviet country has previously revealed plans to borrow $850mn across 2018-2020. The funds will be allocated for “the country's exit from a communication impasse, achieving energy independence and ensuring food security”, Tajik media reported. The overall financing is likely to cover part of the Rogun project. The investment is meant to end the country’s winter energy shortages as well as support its objective to become a regional energy exporter via the CASA-1000 project.

Currently, the total capacity of Tajikistan’s hydropower plants amounts to 5,190 MW, but ageing infrastructure makes only 3,600MW of that capacity usable. That, in turn, leads to chronic winter electricity shortages. The Rogun project envisages installing six additional hydropower turbines, with a capacity of 600MW each, that, once fully operational, will put an end to the winter woes.

Pietro Salini, chief executive officer of the Italian construction conglomerate Salini Impregilo, which won a $3.9bn contract for the construction of the embankment dam, said in February that the first hydropower unit of the Rogun project was set to launch in November.

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