Gas and light for water

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Alena Artsimovich


BISHKEK, Oct. 21 - The heads of state of Central Asia discussed an inter-governmental agreement on the mutual exchange of resources at a meeting of the countries of the Central Asian ring in Bishkek on Oct. 10. According to that document, Kazakhstan will export 250 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity to fill shortfalls and coal for the capital’s thermo-electric power plants in the fourth quarter of 2008. Uzbekistan, for its part, will sell the republic 150 million cubic metres of natural gas.

In exchange, Kyrgyzstan is obliged to release the necessary amount of water from the Toktogulk reservoir for irrigation of its neighbours’ fields. The amount of water should be 5.25 billion cubic metres. The government of the republic also guarantees that the amount of water in the Toktogulk at the start of the growing season will not drop below a level set in 2008.

The signing of the five-sided agreement was preceded by an October meeting of directors of relevant government ministers of Central Asian states. Talks on using water and energy riches had been broken off in September. The Uzbek side proposed that Kyrgyzstan recognize the water basin of the Naryn river as being cross-border. Bishkek refused.

Then Uzbekistan announced that it would sell Kyrgyzstan gas at world prices: $300 [USD] per thousand cubic metres. Kyrgyzstan is in no condition to buy the “blue fuel” at that price. At the same time, the Kyrgyz side announced it was ready to hold gas supply talks with Turkmenistan. However, the Turkmens refused to extend an additional branch of the gas pipeline bypassing Uzbekistan.

Now Minister of Industry, Energy and Fuel Resources Saparbek Balkibekov says that all the formalities have been resolved. The republic will not go without light and gas this winter. Neighbours will help. The rolling energy blackouts that are so unpopular with the people will end at the start of the cold season.

Only industrial enterprises will be able to purchase the imported electricity at 4.5 soms ($.10) per kwh. Household consumers will have to support domestic manufacturers.

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