Tajik Industry Makes Uzbek Children Sad

by Nathan Hamm on 4/27/2007

yoq.jpgFerghana.ru has a report on billboards around Tashkent that bear the phrase, “Tojikiston Alyuminiy Zavodining Kengayishiga – YO’Q!” (“NO to the expansion of the Tajikistan aluminum factory!”). The billboards, which can be seen here and are the product of the Republic of Uzbekistan State Committee to Protect the Environment, show clouds of smoke in the background with two half-nude, sad looking children in the foreground looking on.

It is true that the massive aluminum plant at Tursunzoda has an impact on Uzbekistan’s environment, but it appears that is not what the government really cares about. As Ferghana.ru reports, Uzbekistan began complaining about the environmental impact of the plant after Russia’s RusAl announced plans to update the Tursunzoda facility. Last year, EurasiaNet discussed how RusAl’s plans in Tajikistan angered the Uzbek government.

Tajikistan’s efforts to develop its hydro-power sector and to boost aluminum production are causing a spike in tension with neighboring Uzbekistan.

Uzbek authorities have used punitive measures of late to express their displeasure with existing Tajik policies, as well as future plans. For example, Tashkent is continuing to prevent the delivery of Kyrgyz electricity to one of Tajikistan’s major industrial concerns, the Tajik Aluminum Plant, located in the southwestern city of Tursunzade.

Tashkent tends to view Tajik development efforts as a threat to Uzbekistan’s leadership role in Central Asia. Water politics has long been a source of regional discord. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan provide the overwhelming share of the region’s water, while Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are major consumers. An enhanced ability to harness its water reserves would potentially give Tajikistan considerable negotiating leverage in its dealings with Uzbekistan.

That report goes on to mention that Uzbekistan was leaning on RusAl to scale back its investment plans in Tajikistan. (They had been since 2005, in fact.) And on the dam at least, they appear to have successfully put the kibosh on the deal.

Under the feasibility study made by Germany’s Lahmayer, the dam was to be built to a height of 285 m. The Tajik government has since insisted on a height of 335 m, but RusAl said the government should fund the additional work and first coordinate the project with other states in the Amu Darya basin.

The company – after a merger with Russian rival SUAL and alumina assets of the Swiss trader Glencore world’s No 1 aluminum group – said they had sent official notification to the Tajik government in October last year, but had received no response.

Given the appearance of the billboards, it looks like the fight is not yet over. Ferghana.ru says that it remains to be seen whether or not this will influence the obstinate rulers of Tajikistan to drop their cruel plans for economic development. I would hazard to guess that given how abundantly clear the Uzbek government has already made it that it dislike the Tajik government, this will not make anyone in Dushanbe see how reasonable it is to let Uzbekistan’s economic power not be threatened.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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