Tajiks Incandescent Over Light Bulb Ban
Importing the standard incandescent bulbs became illegal on October 1, with the aim of phasing in energy-saving lamps by the end of the year. The changeover is part of an energy conservation strategy which has the backing of President Imomali Rahmon.
Despite an extensive government media campaign, there has been little public enthusiasm for the initiative. Many complain that it is simply another in a long line of decrees that interfere needlessly with people’s private lives. Previous examples include forbidding public servants to get gold teeth and banning students from wearing miniskirts or jeans. University lecturer Roza Hamidullina said the energy-saving drive was just another intrusive initiative, and put her off purchasing the new bulbs.
Recalling two recent decrees introducing a dress code for university teachers and making it compulsory to use the Tajik language rather than Russian in state institutions, she said, “We are told how to dress, not to have gold teeth, what language to speak and now what bulbs to use at home. Just let them try to make me do it.”
A number of major new dam schemes have yet to reach completion, and water levels appear to be falling generally. It is in
For the last ten years, the Tajik authorities have imposed restrictions on the electricity supply from October to May. In some parts of the country, these power cuts last for much of the day.
Officials are confidently predicting that the switch to more efficient lighting will result in a sevenfold reduction in electricity use. Experts and consumers alike remain deeply skeptical that the change will do anything to alleviate the chronic shortfall in electricity generation.
A former energy-sector worker who gave his name as Akbarali told IWPR that the campaign would be a waste of money. “A lot of efforts are being expended on producing leaflets, putting up banners in the street, and advertising on billboards and on radio and TV,” he said. “So much money is being spent, and all for nothing. This is not necessarily going to lead to energy-saving.” Akbarali explained that any benefits from energy-saving would be swamped by the surge in domestic consumption that happens whenever the power comes on. “When it’s on for several hours, everyone uses all the electrical devices they’ve got,” he said.
Opposition politician and political analyst Shokirjon Hakimov argues that the campaign to use low-energy bulbs ignores the realities of life in a country that is the poorest in
The average monthly wage in
Khusrav, a market trader in the capital
Nazira, an 85-year-old grandmother, said that on her pension of 24 dollars a month she would not even consider replacing her current light bulbs. “We lived 80 years without energy-saving bulbs and we can going on doing so. Let those who have the money buy them. I’m already saving on everything I can,” she said.
Hakimov criticised the government for trying to engineer change by decree. “In democratic countries, the authorities make recommendations rather than banning things. They organise awareness campaigns and give consumers a choice so that they can make decisions depending on their income,” he said. “In Central Asian countries, where there’s no democracy and human rights are violated, they decree that people should purchase these light bulbs. That goes against the principles of a market economy and against the protection of consumer rights.”
The government intends to provide 240,000 of the poorest families with energy saving bulbs free of charge. However, this will be a one-off action, and 35-year-old mother of six Zulfia says that when her free bulbs burn out, she will go back to the conventional ones. “It’s a good thing I’ve bought a few in reserve,” she added.