World Bank urges regional hydropower trade in Central Asia

The World Bank Group is urging five Central Asia countries to participate in a Regional Energy Development Framework for Central Asia to balance water and energy needs of downstream and upstream countries.

“The proposed framework will also focus on maximizing energy export potential within the region during the winter and beyond the region during the summer,” the bank said in a dialog on Central Asia water and energy issues with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan rely on hydroelectric plants, and in winter, when consumption peaks, they increase the discharge of water from the plants to boost output. That leads to flooding in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in spring. During summer, however, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan reduce discharges to build up water reserves, leaving cultivated lands in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan with little water for irrigation.

Experts and advisers, including the World Bank, have long suggested that Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan should pay money or supply cheap fuel to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in exchange for a more convenient water discharge schedule. Uzbekistan refused in 2008 to sign a deal with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan aimed at rationalizing the use of water resources in the region. (HNN 9/19/08)

The bank said it plans to contribute to development of comprehensive short-, medium-, and long-term plans of action for consideration of all Central Asian countries as well as potential investors.

“Such a framework would propose a sequence of actions that will ensure adequate attention to and proper balance between the urgent domestic energy needs of the upstream countries during winter, and environmental and hydrological needs of the downstream countries during summer,” the bank said.

The bank statement added that establishment of a Central Asia-South Asia Regional Energy Market would be part of the plan of action to realign energy export potential during the summer. Four Central and South Asian nations have agreed that Tajikistan and Kyrgystan will export hydropower through Afghanistan to Pakistan via a transmission network due to be completed by 2012. (HNN 11/19/07)

World Bank to fund studies of Tajikistan’s 3,600-MW Rogun

The bank noted it has committed to provide financing to the government of Tajikistan for studies to assess the possibility of developing the 3,600-MW Rogun hydroelectric project, whose construction began in 1980, but stalled at the end of the Soviet era. (HNN 12/10/08)

With an emphasis on potential regional impacts, the studies are to include a techno-economic assessment and an environmental impact and social assessment. They are to be performed by internationally recognized consulting firms to be hired in the coming months under World Bank procurement guidelines.

The bank also is to establish an international panel of experts who will provide independent opinion on the study results. The bank said it also recently initiated consultations with all riparian countries.

Rogun is among about 10 hydro projects, either operating or planned, in the Vakhsh River Cascade. (HNN 1/20/09) The Tajikistan government has struggled for funding to complete the project. (HNN 6/19/08)

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