When Bibiradja Ochildieva, a resident of Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, stepped into her backyard to collect her laundry one day recently, she was horrified to find her family’s clothing covered in black soot. “It was like there had been a fire,” she recounts.
In early June, a newspaper in Pakistan announced the Asian Development Bank would withdraw from a much-anticipated energy transmission project that aims to connect Central and South Asia. The report stated that security fears in Afghanistan were prompting the ADB to drop its 40 percent interest in the project.
China is financing the construction of Kyrgyzstan’s first major oil refinery, and excitement is building in Bishkek that the facility could enable the Central Asian nation to break Russia’s fuel-supply monopoly. At the same time, some observers express concern that the project may stoke local resentment, or become enmeshed in political infighting.
The Armenian government’s recent decision to prolong the lifespan of the aging Metsamor nuclear power plant– a decision supported by the United States – is provoking a public outcry. But with no replacement energy source in sight, the government maintains it has no choice but to place faith in the facility’s sole functioning reactor.
There’s a presidential election in Kyrgyzstan in a few days, but with winter approaching, the troubled energy sector is in the back of many Kyrgyz minds. Some are worrying about a “catastrophic breakdown.” A transparency initiative, though, is generating hope that the troubled energy sector can be reformed.
The recent discovery of hydrocarbon and mineral deposits in Tajikistan has the potential to transform what is now Central Asia’s most economically disadvantaged nation. Whether the Tajik government can take full advantage of the opportunity will depend greatly on its ability to offer foreign investors a higher comfort-level.
Often depicted as a disaster waiting to happen, Armenia’s 35-year-old nuclear power station, Metsamor, has passed muster with the International Atomic Energy Agency. But don’t expect the debate over the plant’s safety standards to end any time soon.
The walls seem to be closing in on Tajikistan. On top of electricity shortages, Dushanbe has been hit by a drastic rail transit rate hike imposed by Uzbekistan, and a potentially devastating increase in energy export tariffs levied by Russia.