Uzbek environmental movement opposes Tajik power plant

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon inspects the construction of Rogun; photo: - The Environmental Movement of Uzbekistan yesterday sent a letter to the speaker of the European Parliament to complain about an MEP who has come out in favour of the construction of the Rogun hydroelectric plant in Tajikistan.

The movement complained to Speaker Jerzy Buzek about Struan Stevenson, who it believes made "controversial" statements in favour of the Rogun project.

Environmentalists claim that the ill-considered Soviet-era policy to control the natural flow of Central Asia's Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers by building gigantic hydroelectric plants in the 1970-80s is the reason for the drying up of the Aral Sea.

The movement said people living in the Aral Sea region were worried about the construction of the Rogun plant because this project would sharply reduce the supply of drinking water from the Amu Darya, affecting 18 million people living along the river.

The movement also warned the European Parliament that the plant is to be built in an area of significant seismic activity, where strong earthquakes may fracture the dam, resulting in "12 billion cubic meters of water inflicting irreparable damage to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan".

The Rogun project regularly causes diplomatic tension between Tashkent and Dushanbe. Moscow-based diplomats from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan became engaged in a war of words on this subject only a week ago.

Tajik diplomats were first to publish an article accusing Uzbekistan of creating obstacles to the construction of the power plant. Uzbek diplomats responded, with arguments similar to those the Environmental Movement of Uzbekistan has made to the European Parliament.

The Environmental Movement of Uzbekistan, set up in August 2008, is the country's only officially registered environmental organisation which has never issued a statement on the destruction of parks and the uprooting of old trees in Tashkent.