February 24, 2010
Independent International Examination of the Rogun Hydropower Station Construction Is Needed
As it is well-known, the leadership of Tajikistan adopted a decision to resume the construction of the Rogun Hydropower Station yet started in the 80s, i.e. after more than a 25-year-long recess. Such decision could not but aroused the gravest concern if to take into account that the design documentation on this facility, which was drafted about 40 years ago based on the standards, design and engineering decisions of those years, has already become obsolete and requires revision and improvement. One could understand such decision if the resumption of construction of such most powerful and the most complex hydropower facility as the Rogun Hydropower Station would be started only after having a comprehensive examination of the design documentations of this facility on the part of an international independent expert commission, which would include the highly qualified specialists competent in this sphere. Moreover, such appraisal is necessary if to take into account that the undertaking of an independent audit and independent assessment has not been practiced during the Soviet time, when the project had been drafted. The leadership of the World Bank has numerously stated at its highest level that it had agreed to institute the international commission of independent experts to conduct the necessary research on construction of the Rogun Hydropower Station. Here is what the President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick wrote in his response letter dated April 15, 2009 to the request by the President of Uzbekistan: “The research (on the project) will be conducted by internationally recognized consulting companies, which will be hired in line with the World Bank procedures. According to our internal procedures the Bank shall institute the international commission of independent experts, which shall draw an independent conclusion on the outcomes of research. With a purpose of ensuring transparency and taking into account the issues, which arouse concern of all interested parties, the World Bank will continue to hold consultations with all interested countries during 2009-2010, as the results of research will be prepared and considered by an independent commission of experts, as well as by interested countries”. Objectively assessing the unfolding situation around construction of the Rogun Hydropower Station, in its letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Tajikistan A.Akylov dated February 3 this year the Uzbek side asked to once again consider the issue of undertaking a mandatory international independent competent appraisal of the project of constructing this hydropower facility. However, the response letter by the prime minister testifies to the fact that the Government of Tajikistan is not set towards and does not see reasonability of conducting such appraisal. Further, the prime minister believes the consultations which the World Bank has preliminarily held with interested governments of the region to be rather sufficient with regard to designing the technical feasibility in terms of conducting the full-scale research and examination of the Rogun Hydropower Station project. In connection with which the premier does not see the need of further cooperating with the World Bank on this issue. Yet another assertion of the prime minister that in 2006 the German company “Lahmeyer” made an examination of the Rogun Hydropower Station commissioned by the Russian company Rusal is contrary to fact. The agreement signed between the “Rusal” Company and “Lahmeyer” envisaged the development of a technical feasibility study for construction of the hydroelectric power station, but not conducting a full examination of the project. In fact, the company “Lahmeyer” did not and could not engage in the issues of environmental and anthropogenic safety since this company is not intended to undertake such things. One has to emphasize time and again that the Uzbek side sees the purpose and rationale for conducting the objective international expertise of the project of the Rogun Hydropower Station, firstly, to avoid such anthropogenic catastrophes as it took place in 2009 at the Sajano-Shushenskaya Hydropower Station. The project of this world’s largest hydropower station was elaborated by the same institutions in the same years as the project of the Rogun Hydropower Station. Although the height of the dam at the Sajano-Shushenskaya Hydropower Station is significantly lower than the expected dam at the Rogun, and adding to that, there never occur such devastating earthquakes in the Siberian area, as in Tajikistan. If we take into account the 10-point seismicity and tectonic fault of the selected zone for construction of the Rogun Hydropower Station, it is not difficult to foresee the consequences of a possible catastrophe caused by a break of the dam with its height of about 350 meters. Along with this challenge, the examination must determine the scope and limits of environmental changes and disturbances of water balance in the vast Central Asian region as a result of construction of the Rogun Hydropower Station. The extreme importance of this problem becomes clear if we imagine the unstable and fragile state of environmental and water balances, as well as the problems experienced by the region in terms of drying up of the Aral Sea. Absolutely reasonable question emerges: what does prevent the Government of Tajikistan to agree to hold the independent international expertise of the Rogun Hydropower Station – the grandiose hydropower facility on its scale – in full accordance with international norms? Moreover, the Tajik side will bear no costs for this, since the World Bank is going to allocate a grant for these purposes. This begs only one answer. If a full international independent expertise indeed confirms the large-scale risks that might contain in the project, then it will be needed to review and improve the project, or perhaps, the legality and appropriateness of enormous costs meant for constructing the facility may be called in question. Assessing the unfolding situation, the Uzbek side still hopes that yet it will be able to convince the Tajik side in terms of the need to hold the international independent expertise of the Rogun Hydropower Station and only after that to continue constructing it. A simple logic and common sense requires this.


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