V. Akhmadjonov, Deputy Head of the balance of water resources and development of water saving technologies
of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan
In recent years the passions around the Rogun Hydropower Station and exchange of «pleasantries» on this issue in the information space not only of Central Asia but also beyond its borders has acquired such a scale that one might wonder: when will stop the flow of disinformation?
One would like to address to numerous authors - when the flow of verbal accusations will be replaced to a sober analysis of available facts and realities, which are formed in water issues, use of water and hydropower in the basins of the Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers. Unfortunately, misinformation soars not only in different estimates of mass media, political scientists, experts, but also it clearly appears in the high level government statements.
Recent statements of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Melioration of Tajikistan Khamrokhon Zarifi and Rakhmat Bobokalonov regarding the terms of filling the Rogun Hydropower Station (HPS), not backed by serious and valid arguments, aim to mislead its own and the international community. Their assertion that reservoir will be filled within 17 years at the benefit of the Tajik quota of water resources and it will have no impact on downstream countries is full absurd.
After completion of the Rogun hydroelectric complex this reservoir must be filled with water for over 7-8 years, initially – until design reference mark of the level of dead-storage capacity (DSC), and then - to the calculated pressures and marks. It means that there will be irrevocable withdrawal of watercourse Vakhsh River in the vegetation season, mainly in June-August (in non- vegetation the Rogun reservoir will not be filled since necessary expenses are needed for operation of Nurek, Baipazin, Golovnoy and Sangtuda hydropower station and to cover winter energy shortage). Under option of DSC 1220 m, the cost of water to fill the dead-storage capacity of the Rogun HPS reservoir alone will make up about 5 km3.
The experts of the German company «Lahmeyer», who engaged in technical feasibility study of the Rogun HPS in 2006, also came to similar conclusions regarding the terms of filling of the Rogun HPS reservoir. It is worth recalling that the Tajik representatives, who often produce the feasibility study by this company of the Rogun project as “an independent environmental impact examination” for some reasons keep silent on the technical conclusions of foreign experts when it comes to such important aspects as filling the reservoir and the level of its impact on flow of transboundary rivers.
Expert calculations made for the average water period show that to ensure the initial filling of the Rogun HPS it is expected additional annual withdrawal of the watercourse of Vakhsh River in the amounts up to 1,5 - 2 km3 in vegetation periods. If the period of filling the reservoir turns out to be a period of water shortage, the water withdrawal will be increased, and the shortage in the downstream of the Amudarya river will be increased several-fold. At the risks of water shortage in the basin Tajikistan will not be able to restrict the supply of water for its water complex, and release (from the allocated quota) water to fill the Rogun.
As the same calculations show, the joint energy work of Rogun and existing Nurek hydropower station may further reduce currently practiced vegetation releases from Nurek reservoir which are already in dry years insufficient to cover the emerging water shortage in Uzbekistan.
Such a scheme of operation of reservoirs is very real, if we take into account that generated electricity at Rogun HPS will go on sale, and the Nurek HPS will be forced to operate in near-contemporary regime, covering own energy needs of Tajikistan.
It cannot but arose big doubts the calculations of the chief Tajik diplomat on the volume of water resources in the Aral Sea basin, including those contained in the reservoirs.
To raise awareness of senior officials of Tajikistan we deem it necessary to emphasize that in Uzbekistan there are 55 reservoirs with a total volume of 19.8 km3, of which about 5 km3 are not used or the so-called “dead-storage capacity”. Said that, the amount of used volume is about 15 km3. For comparison, the total volume of just two reservoirs in Tajikistan - Nurek and Kayrakkum located in Tajikistan is about 15.0 km3.
Mathematical calculations of Mr.Zarifi on the actual volumes of water in the Aral Sea and the water accumulated in the Uzbek reservoirs are also subject to significant correction. At the current level of development of information communications it is easy to obtain reliable data on the water situation in the region. According to recent estimates, the current level of water or the Aral Sea is more than 70 km3. Comparing figures 15 and 70 is an elementary math, i.e. the amount of water reservoirs used in Uzbekistan is almost 5 times smaller than the current level of the Aral Sea!
The question emerges: why there is such a juggling of facts? Perhaps, the Tajik side wants to use them to «substantiate» claims about the need for expertise of water reservoirs in the «downstream» in an attempt to distract the international community to fulfill its own promises on an international independent expertise of Rogun. However, these appeals, unlike the well-founded appeal of Uzbekistan on the examination of Rogun have not any logic and serious reasoning. To let know the Tajik officials and «experts», we shall note that the international legal norms do not provide holding any examination of relatively small reservoirs located along downstream rivers, and, accordingly, is not practiced.
Moreover, in Uzbekistan, it is with state policy to ensure safety of hydrotechnical structures. This is clearly reflected in the presence of specialized legal and institutional system to ensure the safety of hydrotechnical structures.
The shortage of water resources for the needs of the population and economy of the Central Asian region is noticeable today. However, as a result of construction of new large hydro facilities, particularly the Rogun HPS and filling its huge reservoir, the lower-lying basin countries will suffer even more severe shortage of water. Launching this hydrosystem will certainly cause a decrease in Vakhsh watercourse in summer and, accordingly, the total flow of the Amudarya, compounding the tragedy of the Aral Sea.
The main question that bothers people of middle and lower reaches of the AmudaryaRiver is the absence of concrete assurances that the Rogun hydroelectric complex, in the case of construction, would work in irrigation-power mode, as provided in the original design, and would not harm environment and national economy of downstream countries. In the case of exploitation of Rogun hydroelectric complex in a power mode the removal of the watercourse of VakhshRiver in the vegetation period will not be less than 7-8 km3, which would have catastrophic effects in terms of providing water to downstream countries.
Unfortunately, in Tajikistan, which operates one of the highest dams the Nurek HPS and constructs the highest dam in the world – Rogun HPS, there are not created modern regulatory frameworks and institutional arrangements to ensure the safety of hydraulic structures. The situation in the country's water sector exacerbated with the need of qualified specialists for the operation of such a huge dam.
Tajikistan is a country of earthquakes, torrents, landslides and mudslides that have a significant impact on the operational safety of dams and hydroelectric system. The earthquake with intensity of 9-10 on a scale MSK-64 on 11 February 1911 resulted in creation of the SarezLake on MurghabRiver. The catastrophic torrent of 8-9 May 1993 destroyed Rogun HPS’s cofferdam, and in 80s of the last century the Sargazonskoe reservoir was destroyed. In 1993 on the Pamir’s Vanch HPS the water intake structure was completely destroyed that consisted of an earthen dam and concrete spillway with segmental gates. In 1998 a landslide hit derivational canal of Varzob HPS’s Stages, which is both a source of drinking water in Dushanbe. In 2001 the Namangutskaya HPS on the Pamirs because of destruction of the feeding canal went out of service for more than 3 months. The Baipazinskiy landslide bore a serious threat to the Vakhsh HPS’s cascade.
All of these problems, both separately and collectively cannot but cause a serious trouble to the Central Asian countries, which are located downstream of these rivers. The transboundary effects of accidents at a HPS cascade will undoubtedly have catastrophic consequences.
And in such a situation, instead of the correct and balanced assessment of the prevailing socio-economic and energy problems in Tajikistan, some senior officials of this country are trying to shift responsibility to neighboring countries, creating in them the image of an enemy of the Tajik people, that falls beyond any reasonable limits of a common sense .