Uzbekistan cuts energy to Tajikistan amid tensions\02\09\story_9-2-2010_pg20_7



Uzbekistan has unexpectedly halved supplies of natural gas to Tajikistan, Tajik state gas company Tajiktransgaz said on Monday, amid rising tensions between the ex-Soviet neighbors.

“Since Sunday, Uzbekistan has cut in half — from 28,000 cubic meters of natural gas per hour to 15,000 cubic meters — gas to Tajikistan,” a company spokesman told AFP.

“The motives which led the Uzbek side to reduce the supply of natural gas are unclear to the Tajik side,” he added.

Tajikistan’s plan to move ahead with a mega-dam project that Uzbekistan fears could cut off water to its vital cotton industry has seen the neighbors’ already frigid relations cool even further in recent weeks.

Tajikistan depends on Uzbekistan for 95 percent of its natural gas, and this is the second such supply disruption already this year. The two countries have long been at loggerheads over a number of issues from water and energy supplies to long-standing cultural strains.

An impoverished Central Asian state with a population of 7.5 million,
Tajikistan has struggled in recent years to meet the basic energy requirements of its mostly rural population and industry.

In and around the capital
Dushanbe, electricity has been severely rationed and areas of the mountainous country have been plunged into darkness for all but two hours a day.

The Rogun dam, which was first conceived as a gigantic Soviet hydro-electric power project, stalled as
Tajikistan plunged into civil war in the early 1990s after the breakup of the USSR.

Tajikistan now sees the construction of Rogun as a possible solution to its energy woes, allowing it to meet its domestic needs while becoming a net exporter of electricity to neighboring Afghanistan and others.

Dushanbe’s plans to move ahead on the project have enraged Tashkent, which relies on water from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to feed its vast cotton plantations.