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World Bank Says Tajikistan’s Roghun Dam Is Not a Threat to Regional Security

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan

Tajikistan’s plans to construct the estimated $3 billion USD Roghun Hydropower Project on the Vakhsh River will not threaten regional security, according to World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia Saroj Kumar Jha.

"Interim data presented in presentations and reports, as well as comments received from expert groups give reason to assume that the considered type of dam and stability of slopes of river seem to be acceptable," Azerbaijan’s Trend News Agency quoted Jha as saying.

Jha was in Tajikistan this week to meet with President Emomali Rahmon on wide-ranging cooperation in the areas of energy, agriculture, education, health care and social protection of citizens.

Vakhsh River.

The discussion focused on the technical and economic assessment of the dam, as well as the results from last week’s regional meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

At that meeting, experts reviewed the draft Hydrology Report and the draft Geological Investigations Report -- the basis of the Techno-Economic Assessment Study -- and discussed updates on seismic findings, Vakhsh River Cascade simulations, site geology, and features of various dam height alternatives.

The studies will continue examining issues related to public safety, dam height options, potential downstream impacts, and the technical and financial viability of the proposed Roghun Dam.

“It is important for us that the position of the World Bank and its experts on the project of construction of Roghun Hydropower Project remains objective, independent and transparent,” Tajik President Emomali Rahmon was quoted by the National Information Agency as saying.

Jha said independent experts also supported preliminary conclusions that adequate data have been collected on both the development of the project and its potential risks.

He noted that the bank is not assuming any financial responsibility associated with the construction of the dam.

The Roghun hydropower facility has an estimated capacity of 6 billion kilowatt hours per year; the goal is to secure energy independence for Tajikistan as well as providing a boost to other economies in the region, including Afghanistan and Pakistan -- the countries there most in most need of electricity.

However, downstream neighbor Uzbekistan opposes the project, concerned that it will compromise the supply of water it depends on for irrigation.

Tajikistan claims the Uzbek government has attempted to hobble the project by creating problems with railway transport of goods and customs clearance. Dushanbe has also accused Uzbekistan of building dozens of artificial reservoirs that caused the death of the Aral Sea.

Last year, Uzbekistan terminated its supplies of natural gas to Tajikistan, which resulted in shutdown of some industrial enterprises in northern Tajikistan.