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Tashkent to renovate water system
The improvements will help increase the water supply and reduce water bills, officials and analysts say.
By Shakar Saadi
TASHKENT – Uzbekistan is working to modernise Tashkent's water system. The renovations are designed to help improve water quality, reduce leakage en route to the consumer and cut costs, officials and analysts say.
The city's pipeline replacement programme will start this autumn and last through the end of 2015, Uzbek Cabinet of Ministers spokesman Bakhtiyor Khasanov told Central Asia Online. The move comes after the cabinet June 25 passed a resolution titled "On modernising and introducing state-of-the-art energy-saving technology into the city of Tashkent's drinking water supply and sewage system."
"The water system in Tashkent is worn out," Khasanov said. Rusty pipes often leak, while water pumping and heating require too much energy, a factor that constantly pushes water rates up.
Most public water systems in Uzbekistan and throughout Central Asia date back to the 1950s-1980s, he said. In the past 15-20 years, the quality of service rendered by the Uzbek public water system has fallen drastically because of lack of funding and the loss of skilled personnel.
Relying on foreign grants, investments and loans, Uzbekistan has upgraded the water systems in Bukhara, Samarkand, Gulistan, Jizzak, Karshi, Nukus and Urgench, he said. Now Tashkent's turn to replace pipes and overhaul the entire water system has come, he said, adding that government allocations for the programme would total €3.45m (US $4.6m or 9.6 billion UZS).
Improving quality and reducing cost
"The modernisation will reduce the costs of water supply and sewage," Khasanov said. "Rate reductions will become possible because of the introduction of modern energy-saving technology and the thrifty use of natural resources and money."
Replacement of aging infrastructure should improve overall water quality, he said.
The news is welcome to many, especially after Tashkent-based state-run utilities Tashteploenergo and Suvsoz in April raised their rates because of higher fuel and material costs. The cold water rates in the capital and in several districts across Tashkent Oblast increased on average by 14% at the time.
Now that water system upgrades are expected to cut fuel consumption by more than 20%, the rates should decrease, Suvsoz Deputy Manager Akbar Mukhamejanov told Central Asia Online. "Also, we've purchased and installed 182 new sets of pumping equipment to facilitate water supply to residents – a measure that should also help our company save money."
"The modernisation will save 41m kWh of electricity and 3.6 billion UZS (US $1.7m) yearly – and will stabilise water rates," he added.
Consumers who rely on an adequate supply of drinking water support the project, too.
"The quality of water in some oblasts leaves much to be desired – because of rusty pipes and so on," Amina Nurmatova, a Tashkent doctor, told Central Asia Online. She expects the renovations to improve the quality of drinking water.
"We don't drink water without boiling it first," she said. "Such a modernisation needs to be carried out nationwide."
Water supply in rural areas still needs work
Though consumers generally acknowledge that these plans are a good start, some said even more will need to be done in the future. One issue requiring future consideration is adequate supply for rural areas.
Indoor plumbing is much more prevalent in cities than in rural areas, political scientist Linara Yuldasheva said. More than 99% of urban Uzbeks have it, compared to more than 70% of their rural compatriots, with the best-covered areas in Tashkent city (99.8%), Surkhandarya Oblast (96.5%) and Fergana Oblast (95%), she said, adding: "So water supply problems need to be tackled in the provinces too."
Relevant government plans already are in the works, Khasanov said.