Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The White Horror

Darius Rajabian

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Also: Tajikistan Cuts Power Supply

Even in an energy-rich country abound with gas and hydropower -20 Celsius could ditch the population into nightmarish living conditions. Now a harsh winter is challenging Tajikistan's scarce energy resources leaving millions of people across the Central Asian country crippled and unable to carry on with their everyday lives.

'I have three children who get sick all the time because the temperature at home is just plus 5 degrees (Celsius),' said Shoira Shatmanova from the western town of Tursunzade to a Reuters correspondent in Tajikistan. She has asked her husband to think about leaving Tajikistan for good; since she has lost her hope that one day the country's crumbling utilities will be put back up. Amidst the coldest snap in 25 years Shoira's husband might be not the only Tajik mulling over a final decision: to leave or not to leave.

Barq-i Tajik state-run energy company admitted on Tuesday (January 22) that they were dealing with an emergency: the water level of Nurek hydropower plant has decreased to 867 meters and if the level goes down for 10 more meters and no emergency plan would be applied, Tajikistan might face the most severe energy crisis by the end of the year. With 300 m of altitude Nurek (Narak) Dam has been recognized as the tallest dam in the world. But as Tajik officials ascertained, even the unique dam would not be able to save the country from a forthcoming bigger crisis.

However, the dam has never been able to provide the country with its energy needs entirely. There are signed documents between Tajikistan and its energy rich neighbours - Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan that guarantee 10 million kw/h electricity flow to Tajikistan on a daily basis. Now it seems the papers are failing to make Uzbekistan heed its own commitments. Tashkent cut its power supply to Tajikistan completely on January 10. Now Tajikistan is left to import merely 3 million kw/h of electricity from Turkmenistan that is even by no means enough to keep just the Tajik capital alight and warm.

Uzbekistan's well-demonstrated playful nature has not offended Tajik officials. Barq-i Tajik's boss Sharifkhan Samiev justified Uzbeks' breach as a necessity, since the northern neighbour is experiencing harsh weather conditions combined with power shortage too. There was 2 degrees difference between Tashkent and Ashgabat's temperatures on Tuesday: -15 and -13 Celsius respectively. Perhaps these are very crucial 2 points that could be painfully felt in Dushanbe, where is -18 degrees today (Wednesday). The temperature is expected to drop down to an unprecedented -23 Celsius on Friday.

As the first step to tackle the crisis Samiev urged the nation to save electricity that has already undergone rationing throughout the country.

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