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Speeches & Transcripts

Q&A with Saroj Kumar Jha on the Rogun Assessment Studies and World Bank support to water and energy sectors in Central Asia

Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia

July 21, 2014

Transcript

[Updated on February 9, 2015]


Q1: What was the purpose of the Rogun Assessment Studies?

The purpose was to provide independent and scientific assessment of the feasibility of the proposed Rogun Hydropower Project (RHPP) from a technical, economic, social and environmental perspective as an input for further consideration by the Government of Tajikistan and dialogue with riparian countries.

The studies also compare the proposed project with alternative ways to meet Tajikistan’s energy needs. In parallel with the analysis, the World Bank has promoted a transparent, constructive, fact-based dialogue among the riparian countries (Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) through a series of five consultations over the past four years. The final consultation took place in July 2014. Comments from riparian governments and civil society stakeholders have been carefully considered. The Assessment Studies for the proposed Rogun HPP, the Panels of Experts’ reports and World Bank Note - Key Issues for Consideration on the Proposed Rogun Hydropower Project were disclosed on September 1, 2014, which marked the end of the assessment process.

Q2: What has been the World Bank’s role in the study process and what has been done to ensure the transparency, independence and high quality of studies?

The World Bank has been involved to ensure that the studies were completed in line with international standards and through an independent, transparent and inclusive process. The Bank agreed to play a substantially enhanced role in overseeing the studies, including: (a) participating in the selection of the technical consultants to carry out the studies, (b) supervising and reviewing the studies, (c) establishing two International Panels of Experts that were contracted and financed directly by the World Bank to review the assessments, (d) hosting riparian consultations, and (e) providing the World Bank’s own views with regard to the proposed project and undertaking additional studies analyzing: electricity supply alternatives for Tajikistan, analysis of macroeconomic and fiscal implications, international experience in institutional options for trans-boundary water basin management.

The Techno-Economic Assessment Study (TEAS) was conducted by a consortium headed by Coyne & Bellier and the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) was conducted by Poyry Energy Ltd. These international consultant firms were contracted on a competitive basis. Throughout the process, the Bank technical team has been involved in a detailed review of all studies and reports produced by the consultants.

In addition,  two independent Panels of Experts (an Engineering and Dam Safety Panel and an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Panel), directly contracted by the World Bank, reviewed the draft reports at all major stages of the assessment, attended all of the information-sharing meetings, and visited the proposed Rogun site  many times. They have ensured due diligence and international quality standards, as well as objectivity and credibility through their independent advice and guidance.

All interim and final reports, as well as presentations by the consultants and Panels of Experts, riparian consultation reports, and the World Bank Note – Key Issues for Consideration on the Proposed Rogun Hydropower Project  have been made publicly available at www.worldbank.org/eca/rogun to ensure transparency. The CVs of the Panels of Experts are also available on the website.

The Bank’s involvement in the studies does not imply any financial commitment to support construction of the proposed dam.

Q3: What was discussed at the riparian consultations?

Five rounds of riparian consultations were held from 2011-14. The international diplomatic community was also briefed on the status of the assessments following each consultation session. The report from the final riparian consultations is publicly available at: http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/tajikistan/brief/final-reports-related-to-the-proposed-rogun-hpp. In brief, the consultations examined the following issues:

  • First Riparian Consultations (May 17-19, 2011) were held to: introduce the two International Panels of Experts; review the draft inception reports for the two studies; and seek feedback on the proposed program of information sharing with riparian governments and civil society organizations;
  • Second Riparian Consultations (November 6-7, 2012) were held to: discuss the draft Screening Report of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and the draft Design Criteria for the Techno-Economic Assessment Study;
  • Third Riparian Consultations (February 11-12, 2013) were held to: discuss interim findings of the two Assessment Studies including seismicity, site geology, and comparison of different dam height alternatives;
  • Fourth Riparian Consultations (October 17-20, 2013) were held to: discuss the Geological and Geotechnical Investigation of the Salt Wedge in the Dam Foundation and Reservoir Summary Report and Assessment of the Existing Rogun Hydropower Project Works;
  • Fifth Riparian Consultations (July 14-17, 2014) were held to: discuss the final draft Summary Report of the Techno-Economic Assessment Study and final draft Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.

Q4: What are the main findings and recommendations of the Assessment Studies?

The Techno-Economic Assessment Study confirms the feasibility of a Rogun hydropower dam and power plant from a technical and economic perspective contingent upon mitigation and monitoring measures. From a dam safety and engineering perspective, the study finds no major differences in risks among the different dam height options. The study notes that several of the underground structures, including the two existing diversion tunnels and the powerhouse cavern, would require strengthening and remedial measures, as well as comprehensive monitoring, in order to meet international norms. The Assessment also proposed several improvements to the original design hence improving safety of the project. The consultants’ report concludes that any of the possible Rogun design scenarios (three dam heights each with three generation capacities) are a lower cost option for meeting Tajikistan’s electricity demand than the non-Rogun alternatives.  Three possible dam heights were studied (1290 m, 1255m, and 1220m). The relatively shorter lifespan (due to sedimentation) and the lack of downstream flood protection are arguments against the 1220m option. The 1290m option is estimated to yield the largest system cost savings, however the difference with the 1255m option is not large, and trade-offs between both options could be further considered, including from the point of view of sustainable life of the investment, financing risks and macro-economic implications, social and environmental impacts, and opportunities for institutional arrangements and mutual benefits among countries.  

The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment concludes that there are two important environmental and social issues that would need to be addressed in detail: (a) resettlement of households living near the dam site and in the reservoir area, and (b) potential reductions in summer flows, which could negatively affect downstream irrigation.

Regarding resettlement, the ESIA identified measures to mitigate the impacts of involuntary resettlement. Drafts of the Resettlement Policy Framework and the Resettlement Action Plan for the first stage of resettlement, which began before the assessment studies were initiated, concern  seven villages, and need to be completed for safety reasons, were disclosed by the Government of Tajikistan and the World Bank, and consultations with the local population were held.  Additional work, financed by the Bank, has been undertaken in recent months to facilitate the implementation of the Resettlement Action Plan, specifically the preparation of a Livelihood Restoration Plan and an Intermediate Household Level Audit.  The final Resettlement Action Plan and Resettlement Policy Framework will be disclosed in early 2015.

Regarding downstream flows, the ESIA notes that a dam at the Rogun site could impact flows in two ways: how it is filled and how it is operated.  With regard to filling, the Government of Tajikistan has indicated that, if a dam were built at the Rogun site, it would use the difference between its allocation as agreed with riparian states and its actual use to fill the resulting reservoir.

Regarding dam operation, the Government of Tajikistan has indicated that it would operate any future dam at the Rogun site so that the same amount of water is transferred from summer to winter release as is currently done at Nurek, hence the studies note that, with such operating mode, there would be no change in downstream flow pattern. ESIA Panel of Experts is recommending strengthening of existing water allocation arrangements with other riparians to ensure that filling and operation regime are implemented as proposed by the Government of Tajikistan.

Q5: What are the design modifications and mitigation measures recommended by the consultants?

The modifications and mitigation measures concern first and foremost the safety of the proposed dam and include, among others:

  • Enhance the management of construction floods to ensure a greater degree of safety;
  • Build a surface spillway in order to deal with sediment on a long-term basis;
  • Enable the project to withstand a Probable Maximum Flood in a manner that would safeguard the entire Vakhsh cascade, including the Nurek dam;
  • Install a grout curtain and drainage curtain to ensure the safety of the dam against potential dissolution of the salt wedge that exists under the site;
  • Monitor the mitigation measures throughout the life of the project and enable remedial measures to be undertaken if required;
  • Improve the measures undertaken to stabilize the powerhouse cavern and monitor their performance.

All of these measures are described in detail in the consultants’ reports that are available online.

Q6: Have alternatives to Rogun been considered?

The World Bank has looked at a range of alternatives for meeting Tajikistan’s energy needs. In 2013 a study titled “Tajikistan‘s Winter Energy Crisis: Electricity Supply and Demand Alternatives” was published that examines various alternatives for meeting winter energy demand in the country. A primary concern is helping Tajikistan solve its winter energy shortages in the most sustainable way possible.

The Rogun Assessment Studies also include a thorough analysis of the non-Rogun alternatives including small and medium hydro projects, coal and gas-based generation options, and imports of gas and electricity. The studies conclude that any of the Rogun design options is part of the least cost expansion plan for meeting Tajikistan’s energy needs along with other supply sources mentioned above.   

Q7: What additional issues need to be considered with regard to the proposed Rogun HPP?

According to the consultants’ reports and the independent Panels of Experts, it is feasible to build and operate a dam at the Rogun site within modern international norms but contingent on incorporating the experts’ recommendations on modifying the original design, implementing the mitigation measures, and establishing monitoring systems. However, the World Bank Note - Key Issues for Consideration on the Proposed Rogun Hydropower Project notes that the feasibility of actual construction and the realization of estimated benefits would also depend on the availability and terms of financing and the institutional arrangements for construction, filling, and operation. Two broad issues would be particularly important to consider in this regard: the policy framework in Tajikistan, including the macroeconomic implications of such a large investment, and trans-boundary water management arrangements.  International experience shows that sound economic management and the transparency of overall public finances are key to attract international technical, commercial, and financial partners. With regard to trans-boundary water management, the World Bank Note suggests that a different mode of operation, i.e., one that would allow more flexibility for transferring water from wet years to dry years could potentially increase benefits to both Tajikistan and downstream countries.  Additional storage capacity of a new dam could in principle be used to increase both summer water release and winter energy generation when countries need it most.

Q8: Will the World Bank consider financing the proposed Rogun HPP?

World Bank support for the Assessment Studies and consultation process does not imply that the Bank would finance construction of Rogun in the future. However, we remain committed to continue to encourage a riparian dialogue about sustainably managing the Central Asia region’s energy and water resources in a mutually beneficial manner. To this end the World Bank jointly with partners, including the United Nations, will continue to support future steps in dialogue as requested by the riparian countries, such as, for example, providing further analysis of international experiences and institutional mechanisms for trans-boundary water management, understanding the economics of water management in Central Asia or supporting continued high-level policy dialogue among Central Asian states.

Q9: What are the next possible steps for Tajikistan and other riparian countries based on the Rogun Assessment Studies?

As highlighted in the World Bank Note – Key Issues for Consideration on the Proposed Rogun Hydropower Project, to address its energy needs, Tajikistan could consider further accelerating domestic reforms that would enhance its prospects to meet electricity demand and attract private investors.

To address water and energy challenges in Central Asia, the World Bank Note highlights that Tajikistan and riparian countries could consider further exploration of options for: win-win management of trans-boundary rivers, including institutional mechanisms for sharing information, monitoring flows, and ensuring compliance, and for intensifying regional electricity trade for increased resource efficiency and mutual benefits.