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Uzbekistan May Get Less Water From Kyrgyzstan This Year

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan

Uzbekistan may receive only 300 million cubic meters of water from upstream Kyrgyzstan this year -- only a fraction of the 6 to 7 billion cubic meters it had been receiving -- due to the very low levels in the Toktogul Reservoir, according to Kyrgyz officials.

If the volume of water in the reservoir drops by to 6.5 billion cubic meters (its total capacity is 19.5 billion cubic meters), the Toktogul hydropower plant could stop operating; this in turn would mean a halt to water releases for neighboring countries, Kyrgyzstan’s former Deputy Energy Minister, Rayimbek Mamirov, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Uzbek service last week.

“Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan may suffer from a water deficit,” Mamirov said. “If the current situation does not change, between 300 million to 500 million cubic meters of water will be released. This will only be enough for Kyrgyzstan.”

The reservoir, located on the Naryn River, a tributary of the Syr Darya, is currently holding 6.8 billion cubic meters of water. The Toktogul hydropower plant uses 587 cubic meters of water per minute, and 187 cubic meters per minute flows into the reservoir.

Kyrgyzstan’s current Deputy Minister of Energy, Batirkul Isayev, confirmed Mamirov’s statements, although he said the facility could continue operations until the reservoir’s levels hit 5.4 billion cubic meters.

“Equipment now works without overload,” Isayev added. “If at least a small overload happens, it will stop automatically. A similar situation took place two years ago.”

Periods of low water in the reservoir can last up to three years, Mamirov noted. “Kyrgyzstan must have at least 12 billion cubic meters of water in the Toktogul Reservoir by October 2015," he said. "Otherwise an energy crisis will happen.

"To have 12 billion cubic meters of water by October, we must add at least 5 billion cubic meters of water in the spring and summer. So we are forced to release water in the summer very economically.”

A low water period occurred in 2008-2009; at that time, Kyrgyzstan stopped water supply to Uzbekistan, and Uzbekistan’s 11 provinces faced shortages, with many farmers suffering losses.