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Cablegate: Tajikistan: Lights Out and Everyone Home-and Cold

VZCZCXRO0121
PP RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHDBU #0381/01 0791217
ZNR UUUUU
P R 201217Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI
RUEHC/USAID WASHDC
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DUSHANBE 000381

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

SCA FOR CEN;

TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON ENGR EAID TI AF
SUBJECT: TAJIKISTAN: LIGHTS OUT AND EVERYONE HOME-AND COLD

REF: DUSHANBE 199

DUSHANBE 00000381 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) SUMMARY: Even as Tajikistan seeks to become a regional
energy exporter, most of Dushanbe has had only four to six hours
of power each day for the last month. Many parts of rural
Tajikistan have remained without any electricity throughout the
winter, but the fact that the capital is experiencing severe
power rationing and shortages underscores how desperately
Tajikistan's state-owned power utility Barqi Tojik needs to
reform. Although generation projects under construction - such
as the 670 megawatt Sangtuda-I hydropower station scheduled to
go on line in Spring 2008 - will eventually alleviate some of
the shortages, without a real overhaul of the entire electricity
system, Tajik citizens will remain in the dark.

2. (SBU) COMMENT: In addition to World Bank and Asian
Development Bank technical assistance projects, USAID's Regional
Energy Markets Assistance Program is working to reform
Tajikistan's ailing electricity system and establish a
competitive and transparent electricity market. However, it
will take political will as much as technical assistance to
ensure that Tajiks get reliable power. Further, if Tajikistan
does indeed start exporting electricity to Afghanistan and
Pakistan under the proposed Central Asia South Asia Regional
Electricity Market (CASAREM) project, without ensuring its own
citizens have adequate light and heat, President Rahmonov may
finally face an angry populace tired of being left in the cold.
END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.

3. (U) Since mid-February, most parts of Dushanbe only have
electricity from approximately 6 am to 8 am and 5 pm to 10 pm,
and some areas go 24 - 48 hours without any power. Downtown,
home to many government offices and President Rahmonov and his
family, remains lit, but government offices in outlying areas,
such as the Tax Committee, suffer as much as ordinary residents.
The Deputy Head of the Tax Committee - Tajikistan's equivalent
of the Internal Revenue Service -- told PolOffs he rushes to the
office to print out work between 7 and 8 am and then goes home
because there is nothing else to do in the cold building.

4. (U) The problem extends throughout the country. In Sughd
province in the north, and Khatlon in the southeast, electricity
comes for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.
The Pamir region Gorno-Badakhshan, which last year was the only
region to have winter electricity full time, is still reeling
from the effects of the February accident at the Pamir-I power
station and has only limited hours of electricity distribution
(Reftel). Press reports have noted that Takistan's biggest
enterprise, Tajik Aluminum, has cut its production by two-thirds
in response to the electricity shortage.

5. (U) In addition to an inefficient distribution system, the
shortages stem both from a lower level of water in Tajikistan's
biggest reservoir Nurek, and lower than usual winter energy
imports from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Desperate Tajik energy
representatives met with Uzbek counterparts several times this
winter to increase energy inputs to little avail. Demand has
also grown-as the old centralized steam heating systems no
longer work, many residents try to heat their apartments with
small electric or kerosene heaters, despite the inefficiency of
heating individual units in large cement block buildings. The
government has predicted the shortage will continue a few more
weeks, until the water level in Nurek goes up and warmer
temperatures reduce demand for home heating.

6. (U) Normally unwilling to confront the government, Dushanbe
residents raise their hands and shrug in response to the
inconvenience. However, contacts have told EmbOffs that in
southern Farkhor district angry residents burned goods in a
cotton cleaning factory to protest the fact that the factory has
electricity, while the town went without. Other rumors report
that citizens in Voseh district publicly tore up a picture of
President Rahmonov, and clashed with the local police in Kulyob
over the electricity rations.

7. (SBU) COMMENT. Tajiks somewhat blame Uzbekistan for the
energy shortages, but mostly the Tajik government for its
inability to harness Tajikistan's massive hydro resource
potential. Tajik contacts regularly tell EmbOffs that they
expect the government to resolve these electricity issues in the
next year or two. Continued power shortages have the potential
to threaten the delicate stability within Tajikistan. END
COMMENT.

DUSHANBE 00000381 002.2 OF 002

JACOBSON

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