Diloram Abdullaeva -  Future water shortage due to construction of Rogun hydropower station in Tajikistan may cost Uzbekistan over $600 million annually in losses from agriculture. A new research of the US scholars on impact of Rogun project to agriculture sector of Uzbekistan said.

The experts, Shokhrukh-Mirzo Jalilov of the New Mexico State University and Tom M. DeSutter and Jay Leitch of North Dakota State University published said article.

The scholars said that water shortage will result in decrease of GDP of Uzbekistan by 2pc and some 300,000 people will lose their jobs.

The experts rates two scenarios – worse and more likely case, when Rogun power station will be filled in and will work in full regime.

They noted that 12.4 years will be required to fill Rogun water reservoir. This period will be difficult as part of Amudarya will be directed to filling reservoir. The main impact will be when Rogun reservoir is in full operation mode accumulating water in summer and releasing water in winter, which differs from the flow regime needed by downstream irrigated agriculture.

With Rogun hydropower station operating in full electricity generation mode in winter, the Amudarya River flow entering Uzbekistan in the summer is predicted to decrease by 18pc and to increase by 54pc in winter. This suggests that: one, during May to September (irrigation period), Uzbekistan will have a shortage of water; and two, from September to May, Uzbekistan will experience water abundance, which may lead to flooding.

This scenario is clearly a no-win option for the Uzbekistan economy as the country would have to remove 506,000 hectares of land (about 11pc of the country’s irrigated agricultural land area) (FAO, 1997) from agricultural production, which means 336,000 people may lose their jobs.

As a result, Uzbekistan’s GDP would decrease by 2.2pc, government revenues decreasing by 6.9pc, and economic growth would likely decline, the US researchers said.

The “more likely case” scenario assumes that Uzbekistan will undertake reforms in agricultural water use, particularly in irrigation practices, and adjust irrigation requirements to fit potential water shortages.  This scenario would allow Uzbekistan time to adjust agricultural water consumption by 15pc over 12 years of Rogun reservoir filling, reducing the negative effects of changed water flows. This scenario also assumes an increase in water use efficiency in irrigated agriculture. Generally, a 15pc reduction in water use would reduce negative impacts by 40pc, meaning Uzbekistan will have to withdraw only 314,000 hectares of irrigated land compared to the 506,000 hectares if nothing is done.  Moreover that reduction would reduce the number of unemployed to 208,000; the country’s GDP by 1.4pc; and the revenue part of the budget by 4.3pc. While this scenario also has negative results, the impacts are reduced with adequate planning.

US scholars said that Uzbekistan’s agriculture sector and economy will be damaged by Rogun project. They said that the Amudarya River may have increased flow during winter, which may lead to flooding downstream countries.

Most problems related to worsening of the environment are cross-border in nature, which, in turn, stipulates the need to formulate and implement independent and balanced environmental policy of cooperation in the protection of the environment on regional and global levels.

Thorough focus is required for resolution of the problems caused by the implications of the environmental disasters - desiccation of the Aral Sea, which affected the lives of dozens of millions of people living in the Aral Sea basin.

Water is a critical resource for Central Asian countries. For Uzbekistan with about 30 million inhabitants, water resources are the backbone of food security.Water supply of irrigated lands in Uzbekistan is still dependent on water policies of neighboring upstream countries, whose actions lead to the changes in the natural flow of the major rivers – Amudarya and Syrdarya, in the way adverse for the agriculture.

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Water resources are very important for sustainable development, including food security, healthcare, agriculture, and rural development, thus the right for safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, the importance of reasonable and fair use of trans-boundary water resources based on the norms and principles of international water laws must be emphasised.

Taking into account the opinion of international organisations and structures, and on the basis of international law, the World Bank decided in 2010 to conduct an independent international expertise of the project of construction of Rogun hydro-power station and provided $200 million for its implementation. A number of European firms from France, Switzerland and other countries are involved in this studies and its completion is expected at the first quarter of 2013.

In its turn, the government of Tajikistan committed in 2010, not to carry out construction works on Rogun hydro-power station’ site until completion of independent technical, economic, social and environmental impact assessment. At the same time Tajikistan pledged to International Monetary Fund to stop campaign on forcible fund-raising from the population to finance the project of construction of Rogun hydro-power station.

However, regardless of its commitments to the World Bank and IMF, the Tajik side is continuing to implement its obsession unilaterally, which is considered as gross violation of the achieved agreements to halt construction works at Rogun hydro-power station.

Numerous facts indicate that Tajikistan is tacitly carrying out behind closed doors a wide range of works on construction site. At the present time massive construction works are being carried out on the site of Rogun HPP, its constructional drainage tunnels, turbine hall, quarries and other facilities of the station.

Also, the Tajik authorities are vigorously employing foreign contractors (from Russia, Ukraine and other countries) to carry out works on designing the Rogun HPP facilities.

Along with allocation of significant budget funds for the last several years (more than $200 million annually), in violation of its obligations before the IMF, Tajikistan has lately enhanced the compulsory sale of Rogun shares to the population despite harsh financial conditions of majority of people in the country.

Distorting the real situation, misleading and hiding the real works from the world community, the Tajik side has been trying to win time and finish the started works and cross the line of no return. But what if after the completion of assessment, the World Bank will recommend altering the initial design or relocating the Rogun HPP. No doubt that such mega construction should not be built in haste in order to prevent ecological catastrophes.