Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tajikistan 'suspends resettlement' around dam

Tajikistan 'suspends resettlement' around dam
Wed, Jun 01, 2011

ALMATY - TAJIKISTAN has halted resettling tens of thousands of villagers
while experts determine the economic viability of a controversial
hydro-electric power plant, a World Bank official told AFP.

"I can confirm that the Tajik authorities have suspended the
resettlement," Theodore Ahlers, World Bank director of strategy and
operations in Europe and Central Asia, told AFP in the bank's Central
Asia office in Kazakhstan.

"The Tajik authorities have agreed to cease any further resettlement
from the proposed reservoir area until there is a resettlement
framework," he said.

The Rogun dam project, 110 km southwest of Dushanbe, was conceived in
1989. The project stalled after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union but
has now been revived.

Tajik officials in charge of resettlement in the area could not be
reached for comment. A staff member reached by AFP said he wasn't
authorised to speak on the issue.

The government had launched a drive to forcefully resettle as many as
20,000 people to clear the way for the construction of the Rogun dam.

The World Bank has funded two studies to look at the dam's suitability,
its potential impact on the population and whether the project makes
economic sense for deeply-impoverished Tajikistan, a country crippled by
winter electricity shortages. The results are expected in late 2012.

"The highest possible technical quality is key. For that reason, the
bank has financed those two studies," Ahlers said.

"The bank has played an exceptionally large role in the identification
and selection of consultants in order to assure the highest quality and
professional independence," he said.

The dam is seen by Tajikistan as the way for the poorest country in the
former Soviet Union to meet its basic energy needs and boost its
regional influence.

Besides resolving its energy shortage Dushanbe aims to use the dam to
sell electricity to neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Tajikistan has pulled its weight behind the Rogun project and in the
last 16 months, Dushanbe has raised S$235 million through the sale of
stocks to the population. -- AFP

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