Uzbek leader blasts neighbours in water row\05\04\story_4-5-2010_pg20_8



Uzbek President Islam Karimov on Monday blasted his neighbours over their water-management policies, amid a growing dispute over the fate of a massive Tajik hydro-electric dam project.

Karimov, addressing the opening of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) board of governors meeting in
Tashkent, slammed his neighbours for what he said was a lack of foresight about the environmental impact of their policies.

“In Uzbek we say ‘where this is no water there is no life’. That’s why, indeed, we treat this problem seriously,” Karimov said.

“Unfortunately, some of our neighbours do not treat this issue like-mindedly, especially the countries on the upstream of the rivers. They do not think about what kind of consequences it may lead to,” he added.

Tajikistan, the poorest of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, has pledged to move ahead unilaterally in the construction of a project it hopes will allow it to become a net exporter of electricity.

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 Soviet Union.

Tashkent fears the dam will damage its vital cotton industry, which depends on water which flows in from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and negatively impact millions of Uzbeks living downstream.

Uzbekistan, which has cut natural gas exports to Tajikistan during their frequent diplomatic spats, held up railway deliveries to Dushanbe earlier this year, leading to a further deterioration in relations between the neighbours.

Tashkent has denied that the hold-up was intentional, blaming technical problems.

The two countries have long been at loggerheads over a number of issues from energy supplies to cultural strains, and UN chief Ban Ki-Moon expressed his concerns over the situation during a visit to the region last month.