August 16, 2011, The Times of Central Asia
Iranian specialists are about to build "Ayni" hydropower station on Zeravshan River in Tajikistan. The Tajik-Iranian intergovernmental agreement on the construction of this hydropower station is expected to be signed in the course of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Tajikistan on September 4-5.
Currently, Tajikistan and Iran are holding talks on their shares in this project on the construction of the 150 Megawatt hydropower facility, Abbos Bayeni, Counsellor of the Iranian Embassy for Economic Policy told the AP.
If the agreement is signed, the future Ayni hydropower station will become the second hydropower facility in Tajikistan sponsored by Iran. Iran is currently engaged in the construction of the Sangtuda-2 hydropower station in Tajikistan.
In the course of his forthcoming visit Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to take part in a ceremony to inaugurate the launch of the first unit of the 220 Megawatt Sangtuda-2 hydropower plant. Tajikistan's share in this project worth $220 million equals $40 million, while the rest part - Iran's investments. According to this BOT (Build - Operate - Transfer) project, Iran will control the facility for 12 years and will then hand it over to Tajikistan.
Will Iran yield to Uzbekistan's pressure?
Primary agreement on Iran's participation in the construction of Ayni hydropower plant on Zeravshan River was achieved during Iranian President's visit to Tajikistan in January last year when Memorandum "On willingness of Iranian Farob to study the project of construction of a dam for Ayni hydropower plant on Zeravshan River" was signed.
Iran also expressed willingness to take part in the construction of Nurobod-1 and Nurobod-2 hydropower plants on Hingob River. Previously China promised to sponsor the construction of these facilities, including Ayni HPP, but later refused from them due to Uzbekistan's pressure.
Tajik experts believe that it is quite easy to forecast potential response from the official Tashkent to the signature of the Tajik-Iranian agreement on the construction of Ayni HPP since they believe that Uzbek officials will object to construction of any hydropower facilities in Tajikistan.
Tajik deputy Shody Shabdolov says that "all disagreements which can be observed in the region regarding the construction of hydropower facilities in Tajikistan are clearly politicized and represent the fight for energy markets in Central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and India and even Russia and China."
"Tajikistan's hydropower facilities will ruin Uzbekistan's monopoly in the region's energy market," he stressed.
Shabdolov believes that Iran should ignore Uzbekistan's views since "our neighbors object to the construction of any hydropower facilities in Tajikistan."
A well-known Tajik energy experts, ex-head of the Parliamentary Committee for Energy, Construction and Communications Mirzosharif Islomiddinov believes that "Uzbekistan's demarche is illogical."
Uzbekistan will benefit from Ayni HPP even more than Tajikistan. Uzbekistan will be able to use water from the future reservoir to irrigate its agricultural land, he said.
Former deputy gave quite diplomatic answer to question about potential reaction of neighboring Uzbekistan to the construction of the future facility. He said that both Tajikistan and Iran will be able to provide Uzbekistan with reasonable answers in case of any negative reaction.