Uzbekistan and Russia to assess Kyrgyz hydropower plant

By bne IntelliNews December 17, 2012

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Uzbekistan and Russia are to organise an independent report on the impact of the Kambarara hydropower plant in Kyrgyzstan, which lies upstream of Uzbekistan in the Syr-Darya river basin. The agreement is part of a Russian-led bid to resolve simmering Central Asian tensions over water resources.

Uzbek First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov announced the plan for an independent international assessment at a meeting of a Russian-Uzbek intergovernmental commission on December 13, Trend reports.

Russia agreed three months ago to finance the construction of the Kambarata-1 hydropower plant and the Upper Naryn cascade. Both are on the Naryn river, which flows into the Syr-Darya, one of the main sources of irrigation for Uzbekistan's vital cotton industry sitting downstream. As well as putting up a large share of the funding for both projects, Russia is expected to hold a majority stake in the management companies and to operate the projects.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to join hydropower projects in Kyrgyzstan, in an attempt to resolve the long-standing disputes over water use in the Central Asian region. "I think that all the countries of the region have to take direct participation in all these projects for the worries to disappear," Putin said in Kyrgyzstan, according to AFP as he announced the Russian participation in Kambarata-1, which was originally conceived in Soviet times.

While the initial response from Tashkent was highly unenthusiastic - Uzbek President Islam Karimov warned on a visit to Kazakhstan the same month that the battle over water resources could spark not just "serious resistance, but war" - Uzbek backing for the report on Kambarata appears to show that Moscow's weight in the region is helping it to make some progress at least.

A Kyrgyz official claimed that Bishkek is happy to see an independent report on the project, before exhibiting apparent frustration with the Russians. "No one disputes the need for international appraisal of the Kambarata-1 construction project in," Nikolay Kravtsov from the industry and energy ministry told 24.kg. "However, there is still not any feasibility study prepared by the Russian side. And there is no means for examination."

Meanwhile, next-door in Tajikistan an international assessment is being carried out into the planned Roghun hydropower plant, which has also irked the Uzbek government, but failed to receive Russian backing. "We must pay attention to the worries of all the countries of the region, including Uzbekistan and lift all the problems that cause these worries," Putin said of the project in September. A report by the World Bank into the social and environmental impact of building Tajikistan's largest dam is expected to be completed in 2013.

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