The World Bank this week published its draft assessments of Tajikistan’s controversial Rogun Hydropower Dam, for discussion at the fifth information-sharing and consultation meeting with riparian countries Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The assessments include the Techno-Economic Assessment Study (TEAS) Phase 2 Summary report and the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report. Together, the two documents cover dam safety, water management and reservoir operations, economic and financial analyses, implementation and risks, environmental and social impacts, impacts on riparian countries, analysis of alternatives to the dam and recommendations for moving forward.
The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Report identified two important issues that would need to be addressed and mitigated before moving forward with building the dam -- resettlement of people living near the project site and reservoir area, and potential reductions in summer water flows, which could negatively affect downstream irrigation.
The bank found that resettlement for the dam and its reservoir would have a major impact and could result in both physical and economic displacement. However, it is possible for dam construction to provide direct and indirect job creation to offset some of these issues, the report said.
As for downstream impacts, the bank found that the way the reservoir is filled and how it is operated could both affect flows.
The bank noted that Tajikistan has not used its full water allocation as established in the Interstate Commission on Water Coordination, which regulates water sharing in the Amu Darya basin. The Rogun Dam would allow Tajikistan to do this.
However, dam operation at any of the three considered heights could be done in such a way as to maintain historical flows of the river, according to the bank’s studies. The bank recommended that Tajikistan establish some kind of guarantee to its downstream neighbors that it will operate the facility in a manner that will not affect seasonal flows.
The assessments also found that climate change may affect future river flows, as glaciers in the Vakhsh basin recede. The key impacts over the next decade could include a seasonal shift in peak runoff, increased total flow for a few decades while the glaciers melt, and subsequent water flows that are entirely dependent on precipitation.
“In principle, water storage could be used to mitigate some of the negative impacts of these changes; for example, dams could store earlier runoff until needed by downstream riparians for irrigation,” the bank said.
The bank said other impacts from construction and operation of the proposed dam would be “relatively small.”
The draft assessments are to be reviewed over the next six weeks, and the bank has called on all riparian stakeholders to participate in this comment period, as well as the upcoming consultation meetings to take place the week of July 14th.
The drafts will be finalized after the comment period ends in July.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week welcomed the release of the draft assessments. A statement released by the United Nations said Ban “encourages the Governments of Central Asia to engage in a constructive discussion on the management of transboundary water resources in line with international law, and to refrain from unilateral actions. He believes that such a discussion could lead to a sustainable, comprehensive solution that takes into consideration the interests of all of the countries of the region.”
The US State Department also issued a statement saying it would “carefully review the World Bank’s comprehensive, independent assessment of the proposed Roghun Hydropower Project in Tajikistan, as well as the supporting consultants’ reports.”
“The US Government recognizes that Central Asian states face serious water and energy challenges and encourages them to address these issues within a regional context,” the statement added.
The UK government urged “all states concerned to consider these reports carefully and to take part in the planned World Bank-led consultations over the coming weeks and months. Such constructive engagement will be vital to achieve an agreed and sustainable way forward, which contributes towards meeting the energy and resource challenges faced by all in the region.”