Ignore World Bank and build Rogun, Tajik official says
Saturday 20 August 2011
(AsiaPlus.tj) – A leading Tajik official on Thursday called on Tajikistan to continue with Rogun Dam construction despite a World Bank finding that construction should be postponed for half a year because of structural stability concerns.
The World Bank “is looking for any excuse to find fault” with the dam project, the AsiaPlus.tj news agency reported the Tajik National Committee Secretary for the International Commission of Large Dams, Homiddzhon Arifov, as saying.
“World Bank experts believe that there is a danger that the reservoir is silted up quickly, and sludge will flow through water-supply system for the generators,” Arifov said. “The main threat to the situation is that an earthquake will gather a lot of mud and overturn the dam.”
Arifov said that for such a buildup of sedimentation to occur, a powerful flood – the likes of which occur once every 10,000 years – would have to take place.
If Tajikistan halts construction, as the World Bank suggested in a finding released on Wednesday following a 10-day study trip by experts, the country can expect to wait another five to 10 years before the dam is completed, Arifov said. Afirov pointed to the experience of Kyrgyzstan, which spurned World Bank assistance to build its Karambata hydropower dam.
“We need to say, all gentlemen! We will build it ourselves!”
The World Bank on Tuesday cautioned Tajikistan against renewing construction on the planned massive Rogun dam owing to large volumes of sediment carried by the powerful Vakhsh River. The findings, delivered at the completion of a 10-day visit by a World Bank team and independent technical experts, said plans to start building the first intermediate height dam of nearly 120 metres should not begin.
The experts, who evaluated the project according to international standards, risk evaluation and impact assessment, instead recommended that further technical, economic, environmental and social assessments be made of a full-height dam. “In this regard, the good progress of the on-going assessment studies provides a solid basis for comprehensive assessment of the full height dam, which could take from six to eight months to complete,” the World Bank said.
The Tajik government agreed with the global lender last year that no new construction would commence on the $4 billion hydropower plant until all assessment studies were shared with the downstream countries.
Opponents of the project warn that the disputed project would reduce scarce water supplies needed for crops and speed the drying of the Aral Sea. They also assert that a powerful earthquake in the seismically volatile region could release a devastating torrent of water that would bring disaster to downstream communities in the lower-lying countries.
Tajikistan believes that the large dam will put an end to its chronic energy shortages.