The World Bank Considers Feasible the Building of the Tajik Rogun Dam

22-07-2014

Water issues in Central Asia, which have proven contentious since the breakup of the Soviet Union, have attracted international attention with the World Bank's recent impact assessment condoning Tajikistan's plan to build an enormous dam. The Rogun Dam, under construction for decades, is strongly contested by downstream Uzbekistan. Tensions between energy-deprived Tajikistan and water-starved Uzbekistan – exacerbated by the region's endemically unsustainable resource management and growing competition – have prevented the countries from pooling their complementary resources. Downstream Uzbekistan has applied political and economic pressure to its poorer upstream neighbour to ensure the huge Uzbek cotton fields continue to be watered. For its part, Tajikistan hopes to export electricity to Afghanistan with the hydropower project, which has suffered from a lack of funding as well as political wrangling. The dam, located in an earthquake-prone region, would be the tallest in the world – and the most cost-effective way to boost Tajikistan's economy and energy efficiency. According to the World Bank, whose reports included technological and environmental considerations, the construction and operation of the dam are feasible, and the proper application of international standards would reduce the risk of failure. The Bank also recommends that downstream countries have an equity participation in the project.

Water issues in Central Asia, which have proven contentious since the breakup of the Soviet Union, have attracted international attention with the World Bank's recent impact assessment condoning Tajikistan's plan to build an enormous dam. The Rogun Dam, under construction for decades, is strongly contested by downstream Uzbekistan. Tensions between energy-deprived Tajikistan and water-starved Uzbekistan – exacerbated by the region's endemically unsustainable resource management and growing competition – have prevented the countries from pooling their complementary resources. Downstream Uzbekistan has applied political and economic pressure to its poorer upstream neighbour to ensure the huge Uzbek cotton fields continue to be watered. For its part, Tajikistan hopes to export electricity to Afghanistan with the hydropower project, which has suffered from a lack of funding as well as political wrangling. The dam, located in an earthquake-prone region, would be the tallest in the world – and the most cost-effective way to boost Tajikistan's economy and energy efficiency. According to the World Bank, whose reports included technological and environmental considerations, the construction and operation of the dam are feasible, and the proper application of international standards would reduce the risk of failure. The Bank also recommends that downstream countries have an equity participation in the project.