ALMATY, May 23, 2011 - The first information-sharing and discussion meetings on the Assessment Studies for the proposed Rogun Hydropower and Regional Reservoir Project (Rogun HPP) in Tajikistan took place on May 17-19, 2011 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The purpose of the meetings was threefold: 1) to introduce the international Panels of Experts convened to review the two Assessment Studies, 2) to provide information to the riparian countries about the current status of the Assessment Studies and the work program, and to review the draft inception reports on the two studies; and 3) to seek feedback and input from the participants on the program of information sharing and discussions with governments and civil society organizations in the region.
This meeting was a continuation of consultations that the Bank facilitated with the riparian countries over the past two years. Governments from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan participated in consultations in 2008-2009 on the Terms of Reference for the Assessment Studies. Consultations were also undertaken with civil society and representatives of potentially affected communities within Tajikistan. The meetings in Almaty in May 2011 marked the beginning of a new series of information sharing and discussion sessions to be held over the study period.
“Besides promoting good technical, economic, environmental and social practices, the Bank gives special importance to the process of information-sharing and discussion in the overall process of the development of the Rogun Assessment Studies,” said Theodore Ahlers, World Bank Director for Strategy and Operations for the Europe and Central Asia region. “The studies will take at least 18 months to complete. During this time it is important to share intermediate findings and ensure that the diverse perspectives and points of views of the affected stakeholders in the riparian countries are continuously heard and recognized. Today is the first meeting in a series of riparian meetings that will follow.”
The studies and riparian discussions will provide a basis for informed decision making on the future of the proposed Rogun project. However, the Assessment Studies will not decide whether Rogun is built. A variety of other factors such as international agreements and financeability would need to be considered before the future of the proposed Rogun project is decided. The World Bank has made no financial commitment to support construction of the proposed project.
The World Bank has established two independent Panels of Experts: an Engineering and Dam Safety Panel and an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Panel. The role of the Panels, who are constituted, coordinated and funded by the World Bank, is to ensure due diligence and international quality standards, as well as objectivity and credibility through independent advice and guidance. The representatives of the independent Panels of Experts visited Tajikistan earlier in May to visit the project site and discuss consultants’ draft inception reports with the authorities and the consultants themselves. The Panels of Experts are composed of recognized international professionals from outside the countries of the former Soviet Union.
The members of the Panels of Experts shared their technical advice and insights with riparian governments and civil society representatives in Central Asia who attended the information-sharing and discussion meetings. Participants of the meetings were able to interact directly with the experts, discuss the draft inception reports, as well as the plan for the riparian consultations on the study program.
The meeting for riparian governments was held on May 17-18. Government representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan welcomed the opportunity to have an open and constructive discussion at the regional level. The concerns they raised included the issues of dam safety, availability of water flow downstream, and the transparency of the study process. All participants agreed that information-sharing and involvement of all riparian countries are critical for openness, transparency, and credibility of the study process. The International Fund for Aral Sea (IFAS) and the United Nations Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) attended the meeting as observers.
On May 19, about 80 national civil society organizations from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as some international nongovernmental organizations were connected by a video-conference between Almaty, Astana, Bishkek, Dushanbe, and Tashkent. The discussion focused on issues such as scope of the Assessment Studies, importance to take into account both irrigation and energy needs, seismic safety of the proposed dam, potential impact on the downstream countries, impact on climate change, resettlement of population in the potential reservoir area, and greater engagement of the civil society and local population in the study process.
A number of documents in English and Russian languages were provided to the meeting participants, including an update on Rogun Assessment Studies, Terms of the Reference for the Assessment Studies, Terms of Reference for the Panels of Experts, short bios of the Panels of Experts members, summaries of the draft inception reports, discussion note on information-sharing and discussion process, and others.
The recommendations from the participants were to continue information-sharing and discussions on a regular basis in order to keep the governments and civil society of the riparian countries informed of the progress and results of the studies and engaged in the process. Comments from riparian governments and civil society organizations on the two inception reports and on the program of information sharing and discussions will be accepted until June 20, 2011 via email, website or in the World Bank Country Offices.