Uzbekistan freezing because of gas shortages

Winter in Uzbekistan; photo:
Cold weather and frosts that hit Uzbekistan have caused problems with uninterrupted power and gas supplies in rural areas and regional centres.

Villagers in Jizak Region have started moving into the houses of their relatives living in towns which are still supplied some power.

The village of Ravot in Jizak District, a local resident said, has no gas at all, while power is supplied only for two hours a day. In frosts when the night temperature drops to 15 degrees Celsius below zero, people have no choice but look for a warm shelter.

However, only well-off people are fleeing the frosts, as the poor are remaining in their cold houses because they have no where to go or have no money to buy coal or wood.

Aliboy from Ravot said that he and his fellow villagers paid for gas and power because authorities withheld money from him pension, even though they do not provide the service.

"Many families have little children living in cold houses," he said.

Gas supplies, traditionally unreliable in Uzbek provinces, worsen in Tashkent too in winter.

Tashkent residents complain about gas pressure and cold homes. In some districts gas supplies were absent for several hours on 16 December.

Gas pressure fell in Tashkent's gas networks on the night of 14 December when the temperature dropped to 9 degrees below zero and the city folk started burning more gas for heating. In the following two nights when the temperature fell to 12-13 degrees below zero, gas supplies in some districts vanished altogether.

Some residents areas were cut off gas, for example some districts in Chilanzar and on 16 December when Tashkent was covered in snow, the day temperature was around 7 degrees below zero.

During the weekend frosts gas supply problems started in the Centre-13 neighbourhood.

"The 055 service [a joint control centre for utilities supplies] accepts complaints reluctantly. Boiling a litre of water takes two hours and it is impossible to cook," Svetlana from Mirzo-Ulugbek district complained.

Gas shortages are combined with problems with power supplies this year because many people are using electric heaters and air-conditioning.

Power cuts have become longer and more frequents almost in all districts in the city. In some areas power voltage is unstable which destroys electric appliances.

The Tashkent gas supply company confirmed that pressure had fallen in the networks but reassured it was not yet critical. A specialist said pressure fell by no more than 10%.

People in Uzbekistan should not hope for better gas supplies this and following winters because the government intends to export more gas for hard currency than sell to the population for sums.

Many families have little children living in cold houses"

Aliboy from Jizak Region

Uzbekistan started gas supplies to China in August and will export up to 5 billion cu. m. of gas there.

In 2013 Chinese gas imports will increase to 10 billion cu. m. and when the Uzbekistan-China pipeline will reach a full capacity this figure will grow to 25 billion cu. m. of gas.

Uzbekistan is increasing gas exports despite falling output. It produced 63 billion cu. m. of gas last year, a 4.4% decrease year-on-year.