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central asia in focus: kyrgyzstan’s energy emergency

Central Asia in Focus: Kyrgyzstan’s Energy Emergency

Author: Bruce Pannier

Jul 26, 2023

Copyright (c)2022 RFE/RL, Inc. Used with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036. Read original here.

In this week’s edition: Kyrgyzstan’s energy emergency, Tajik authorities declare Pamiri news outlet extremist, a death in a Turkmen breadline, and more.

In the Region

Kyrgyzstan’s Three-Year Energy Emergency

Kyrgyzstan has problems with electricity and heating in the winter, but now the situation with energy sources is so grim that power rationing might be introduced.

On July 20, Kyrgyz Energy Minister Taalaybek Ibraev proposed declaring an emergency situation for the power sector for the next three years.

“It is essential to take immediate measures to avoid a crisis,” Ibraev said.

“I propose introducing a state of emergency in the energy sector by presidential decree, lasting from August 1, 2023 to December 31, 2026.”

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov signed the decree on July 24.

Ibraev explained that Kyrgyzstan would be three billion kilowatt hours (kWh) short of meeting its electricity demands this year and by 2026 that figure could be five to six billion kWh.

Hydropower accounts for 90 percent of domestically produced electricity in mountainous Kyrgyzstan.

As the population and industry have grown in Kyrgyzstan, energy demands have naturally increased.

Ibraev said energy consumption has risen from 16.3 billion kWh in 2021 to an estimated 17 billion kWh for 2023.

Kyrgyzstan produces 14-15 billion kWh annually, though such output is now doubtful due to falling levels of water in reservoirs such as the massive Toktogul reservoir.

The hydropower plant there generates 40 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s electricity output, but this year on July 20 the reservoir held 10.68 bcm of water.

On July 20, 2022, the reservoir held 12.7 bcm and on July 20, 2020, it held 13.7 bcm.

When the reservoir is full it holds some 19 bcm.

If the reservoir holds less than 6-6.5 bcm, it will be too little to run the turbines and Kyrgyzstan needs the Toktogul hydropower plant to run year-round.

Why It’s Important: Kyrgyzstan is importing electricity from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, but even that is not enough to meet domestic demand.

Kyrgyzstan’s reliance on coal has been increasing for a decade with an accompanying and very noticeable problem with air pollution, particularly in the capital Bishkek.

Even with coal use, severe power shortages seem inevitable this winter.

Ibraev promised there will be no rolling blackouts this winter, but that seems unavoidable.

Tajik Authorities Declare Pamiri News Outlet Extremist, Prepare to Seize Aga Khan University

The Tajik government’s campaign against the Pamiris from Tajikistan’s eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) continues.

On July 18, the GBAO prosecutor’s office demanded the land the University of Central Asia (UCA) is built on in Khorugh, the GBAO capital, be returned to the Tajik state.

The GBAO prosecutor’s office said the deal giving the land to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in the 1990s was illegal.

In June, Tajik authorities canceled the license of the AKDN lyceum and nationalized the Aga Khan’s Serena Hotel.

In August 2022, the Tajik government transferred ownership of the AKDN park in Khorugh to city authorities.

Most Pamiris are Ismaili Shiites, followers of the Aga Khan.

In May 2022, Pamiris in the Khorugh area attempted to conduct a peaceful demonstration to demand changes of state-appointed local officials and the release of Pamiris jailed for previous protests.

The government launched a security operation in response that saw dozens of locals killed.

Since then, Tajik authorities have pursued a campaign against Pamiris and imprisoned scores of influential Pamiri figures, including activists, journalists, and lawyers.

On July 19, a Supreme Court ruling declared the independent internet site of Pamir Daily News an extremist organization and banning its activities in Tajikistan.

Pamir Daily News reports on events affecting the Pamiri community.

The Committee to Protect Journalists called the ban on Pamir Daily News “a sadly predictable step in the ongoing criminalization of all coverage of the government’s human rights abuses.”

Pamir Daily News announced on July 20 it has rebranded itself and continues, for now, to operate as Pamir Inside.

Why It’s Important: The UCA at Khorugh is one of three such universities planned in Central Asia.

Another opened in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan in 2016 and one is being built in Tekeli, Kazakhstan.

The goal is to bring quality education to remote communities.

The AKDN signed the agreements for all these universities with Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Tajik authorities at approximately the same time, yet the Tajik government is the only one of the three governments moving against its UCA.

It seems the Tajik authorities prefer the Pamiri side of events in GBAO goes unreported and that education in GBAO is firmly under state control.

The Latest Majlis Podcast

This week’s Majlis podcast takes a look at strengthening relations between Central Asia and Gulf states.

With Russia’s attention focused on its full-scale war in Ukraine, Central Asia is increasingly looking to the Arab world for partnerships Russia has traditionally provided.

This week’s guests are:

  • Aijan Sharshenova, Research Fellow at the Bishkek-based think tank Crossroads Central Asia; and
  • Theodore Karasik, Fellow on Russian and Middle East Affairs at The Jamestown Foundation.

What I'm Following

A Death in a Turkmen Breadline

We recently looked at tensions and fights in breadlines outside Turkmen stores offering state-subsidized goods.

Now RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, Azatlyk, reports a 44-year-old woman died in such a breadline near the northern Turkmen town of Gyorogly.

The woman was one of 300 people waiting outside a store for their ration of flour from the state.

She was on the staircase leading to the store’s entrance.

The temperature was more than 110 Fahrenheit and some people had been there waiting for hours.

When a store salesperson came out and announced the day’s delivery of flour was less than expected and not everyone in line would be able to receive their flour ration, the crowd rushed the store.

The woman was knocked off the stairs and hit her head when she fell, dying almost immediately.

“Lazy” Kyrgyz

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov is portrayed by his loyalists as being a defender of the values, traditions, honor, and dignity of the Kyrgyz people.

So it was a bit shocking to hear Japarov say on July 18 that the reason Kyrgyzstan was inviting 800 construction workers from Dubai to help build new government structures was because “we Kyrgyz are a very lazy people.”

Japarov continued, “What a foreigner completes in a day, a Kyrgyz cannot do in a week.”

We’ll see how those comments affect Japarov’s popularity among the Kyrgyz nationalists that brought him to power.

Fact of the Week

The head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security, Kamchybek Tashiev, said on July 20 that in the last 30 months, perennially cash-strapped Kyrgyzstan has spent some $1.422 billion on upgrading weapons for the country’s military.

Thanks for Reading

Thanks for reading Central Asia in Focus! I appreciate you sharing it with other readers who may be interested.

Feel free to contact me on Twitter or by responding to this email, especially if you have any questions, comments, or just want to connect about topics concerning Central Asia. See you next week for more on what’s happening in Central Asia.

Until next time,
Bruce


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