After a siesta away from the Central Asian swirl and intrigue, we’re back with a CEStandard Deep-dive into one of the region’s thornier issues—the Rogun Dam.
We’re fascinated with Rogun for a number of reasons. Yes, the venomous sound bites it summons from Presidents Karimov and Rahmon are entertaining and scratch the journalistic itch for conflict, but we also see Rogun as a game changing project. Indeed, the issue could prove tectonic and hold implications for both the development and power balance within the region as well as for existing global powers and water-stressed basins around the world.
Without unveiling the full monty (that’s what the paper is for after all!), the project and the jousting rancor between the two leaders continues to summon the attention of global heavy hitters. Interested parties include the UN and World Bank along with neighboring Kazakhstan and additional peripheral stakeholder nations and investors. Water conflicts of this kind aren’t new, but they rarely pit against each other two countries so desperately codependent yet also yearning for independence.
While the World Bank studies due out this summer—the Techno-Economic Assessment Study (TEAS) and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA)—will address the objective feasibility and wisdom of the project, the findings aren’t likely to build any sort of sustainable peace between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Rogun tug of war may, however, reinforce the dire need for water management and sharing agreements with the international community. True to form, Central Asian states have and will continue to milk fears of war, poverty, famine and the supposed threat of terrorism for international aid. For all the development and security potential used to market the project, Rogun fulfills the strongmen’s crooked needs as well.
Unless tensions are defused, Rogun may impotently stumble on toward incompletion – an ATM for politicians and a broken promise to the region. However, if the dam is built–which many believe it will be–the world will take note.