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winter 2007-08 Central Asia energy crisis, Tajikistan energy concerns, Central Asia harsh winter
Dushanbe, the capital and largest city of Tajikistan in Central Asia.

Already Pummeled by Energy Crisis, Central Asia Braces for Winter

November 13, 2008 10:58 AM
by Anne Szustek
Last winter was the coldest Tajikistan has seen since 1969; this year, residents are trying to prepare by gathering fuel and food supplies.

Tajikistan Winter: A Repeat of Last Year?

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Residents of Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia, are shoring up fuel supplies and basic food items in anticipation of a repeat of last winter.

“As soon as we get our October salary, we’ll buy a wood-burning stove,” a schoolteacher named Hanifa was quoted as saying by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Hanifa, whose last name was not cited, is a teacher in Khujand, a town in the north of the country. She told the Prague-based news service that she and her husband have already spent their savings on enough coal and wood to tide them through what could be another harsh winter.

From December 2007 through March of this year, heavily mountainous Tajikistan saw one of its coldest seasons on record. Temperatures regularly plummeted below minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 20 degrees Celsius). Snow and ice blocked shipments of staple items to rural villages. What foodstuffs did get through to far-flung areas of Tajikistan were so costly that families were left to survive on meager rations.

Natural gas supplies in Tajikistan were nearly non-existent and electricity shortages were widespread. Mirzo, a journalist in the capital city of Dushanbe, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Life simply stops in our high-rise building when we don’t have electricity.” In his apartment block, his family of six only uses one room for the duration of winter. “It becomes our kitchen, dining and living room, as well as the bedroom… We can’t afford to heat all the rooms.”

Reactions: Tajik government takes action

Sharifkhon Samiev, the head of electricity company Barki Tojik, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “As of November we will provide each household with four hours of electricity in the morning and another four in the evening.” Samiev also said that the company is doing everything it can to prevent the energy shortages of last winter.

This includes purchasing more than 1 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity from neighbors Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Until then, however, rural areas and many cities are on a strict rationing system, and only buildings deemed “strategically important,” such as hospitals, government buildings and presidential residences, are exempt from rationing.

But deals such as the one with Turkmenistan have soured in the past, with electricity contracts from Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan failing to deliver electricity on time. Tajikistan’s government blames Uzbekistan for impeding the transfer of electricity.

Background: The Central Asia energy crisis

Tajikistan’s energy problems are a cruel irony. According to EurasiaNet, the country has the potential to produce electricity at an estimated 300 billion kilowatt-hours per year, “the greatest hydroelectric capacity in the region,” but it is dependent on its neighbors for electricity during the winter.

The country relies largely on imported electricity from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, but those two countries have suffered their own power shortages. Last year, protests over gas and electricity supplies broke out in front of the mayor’s office in the Uzbekistan cities of Fergana and Khojeyli.

Reference: Tajikistan

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