Speeches & Transcripts

Q&A with Saroj Kumar Jha, Regional Director for Central Asia, on the current status of the Rogun Assessment Studies

February 21, 2013

In this follow-up Q&A, Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia, describes the latest findings in the Assessment Studies for the proposed Rogun Hydropower Project and explains the importance of cooperative energy and water resource management in Central Asia.

Q1: What is the purpose of the sessions with government and civil society that were held last week?

SKJ: The purpose of the riparian information-sharing and consultation meetings is to share emerging analysis from the assessment studies on the proposed Rogun hydropower project with interested stakeholders from the Amu Darya Basin countries.  The questions and concerns expressed by participants during these meetings are vital to a robust regional dialogue on the proposed project, and to ensuring quality studies. We are committed to an open, independent, and inclusive process of information-sharing, and we will continue making efforts to get all the stakeholders at the table.

Q2: What new information was discussed during the information-sharing meetings?

SKJ: We recently posted two reports online (www.worldbank.org/eca/rogun) that contribute to understanding two of the key issues identified by stakeholders during two previous riparian consultations in May 2011 and November 2012, namely dam safety and water management.  The reports document findings on hydrology (water management) and the geological stability of the right bank of the Vakhsh River (dam safety) at the dam site.

In addition to these reports, several presentations have also been shared online and discussed at the meetings. The presentations on seismic hazard assessment and geology assessment contributed to a rich discussion on the key issues of dam and public safety, including analysis of possible earthquakes, tectonic faults, landslides, salt wedge, and other factors on the proposed project feasibility. The interim findings from the presentations, reports and feedback from the Panels of Experts are that the dam type under consideration and stability of the slopes appear to be acceptable. 

On the second key riparian issue, water management, the hydrology report considers runoff, temperature, and precipitation at the proposed Rogun site and examines the existing network of hydro-meteorological monitoring stations, probable maximum floods, and climate change impacts. The interim finding, supported by independent experts, is that hydrologic data needed for project design and risk assessment is of adequate quality, and that the estimated Probable Maximum Flood (PMF) is based on international good practice (i.e., ICOLD standards) and is appropriately conservative for the benefit of dam and public safety. The hydrology report also addressed climate change impact, with the conclusion that climate change could result in increased temperature, which would modify flood regime and river flow pattern.

The hydrology report is accompanied by an additional presentation on the planned Vakhsh River Cascade simulation modelling which will enable analysis of the impact of the proposed project on flows along the Vakhsh River and the Amu Darya.  The model will reflect the Government of Tajikistan’s commitment to maintain flow patterns and consistency with the Nukus declaration and Protocol 566, which they again reiterated during the third riparian meetings.  This modeling and associated environmental and social impact assessment are critical to understanding the potential effects on countries throughout the Amu Darya Basin. 

All of these assessments – seismic hazard, hydrology, cascade modeling, geology -- will inform the assessment of various dam height options, as will differences in environmental and social impacts.  These various dam height options and the approach to estimating the resettlement and social infrastructure costs have also been presented and discussed during the meetings and the presentations are also available on-line. We encourage interested stakeholders to review the two reports and the additional presentations and submit comments and questions to rogunconsult@worldbank.org by March 4, 2013.

Q3: Who are the experts involved in the assessment studies?

SKJ: The Techno-Economic Assessment Study (TEAS) and the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) are being conducted by teams from Coyne & Bellier and Poyry. These international consultant firms were contracted on a competitive basis by the Government of Tajikistan and are financed through an IDA project. The World Bank has been directly involved in the selection of consultants and the Bank technical team has direct access to all studies and reports produced by the consultants. In addition, the World Bank is funding two independent Panels of Experts (PoEs): Engineering and Dam Safety Panel and an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Panel. Representatives from these panels have attended all of the information-sharing meetings and visited the proposed Rogun site and Dushanbe many times. They are ensuring due diligence and international quality standards, as well as objectivity and credibility through independent advice and guidance.

The Panels of Experts are comprised of Roger Gill, Hydropower Policy; Ljiljana  Spasic-Gril, Dam Engineering/Dam Safety/Seismic Engineering; Paul Marinos, Engineering Geology/Rock Mechanics; Ezio Todini, Hydrology; Torkil Jønch Clausen, Water Resources; Erik Helland-Hansen, Environmental planning/Hydropower; Richard Fuggle, Environment; Frederic Giovannetti, Resettlement;  and Gregory Morris, Sedimentation.  Another two members, one for electro-mechanical plant and works and the other for advice on seismicity are being inducted by the Bank. Each expert fully appreciates that a thorough, independent assessment of all aspects of Rogun is crucial to determining its viability in technical, financial, social and environmental terms. These experts are also helping to ensure public safety, assess potential and perceived downstream impacts, and identify areas that need further examination. We are pleased to have a world-class team on this.

Q4: What is the next step after the assessment studies are completed?

SKJ: These studies are a complex process that requires detailed analysis across a range of issues, drawing linkages among the components of analysis, and ensuring adequate technical review and revision.  The schedule needs to allow time for the Panels of Experts, World Bank specialists as well as riparian governments and civil society to review and comment on the study findings.  This takes time. Throughout this process we are hoping to facilitate a constructive, fact-based dialogue among all stakeholders about not only the proposed Rogun Hydropower Project, but also the development benefits of international cooperation on energy and water resources in Central Asia.

It is important to clarify that these assessment studies will decide neither whether the proposed Rogun dam will be built, nor the final design, should a project proceed. They will serve as an input to decision-making. A variety of other factors such as international agreements and financing 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 dam. Our role is to help establish objective, independent, and comprehensive facts for all stakeholders.

Q5: What else is the Bank doing to help improve the energy situation in Tajikistan?

SKJ: Our basic principle is that World Bank support should benefit the people of Tajikistan. So during the severe winters of 2009-11 we provided emergency funding to ensure supplies of gas.  But this is not a sustainable solution.  Hence we took a deeper analysis in our recent report titled “Tajikistan’s Winter Energy Crisis: Electricity Supply and Demand Alternatives.” It shows that Tajikistan’s electricity situation is dire and getting worse.  The Tajik people are well aware of the social toll of living with inadequate electricity – comprising 70% of the population -- particularly those in rural and vulnerable households.  They also firmly believe that the Tajik electricity system can and should be financially viable and transparently operated.  We agree, which is why we have been supporting measures to reduce energy losses and increase financial accountability in Barki Tojik.

So why another report?  The purpose was to prompt technical discussions about what exactly can be done quickly to reduce the burden of winter electricity shortages for the Tajik people.  Among the proposals are steps to improve energy efficiency, including in TALCO, which our studies show can reduce its energy use through efficiency measures by about 20%.  We also proposed to revitalize regional trade, increase investments in thermal power supply, and rehabilitate aging hydropower assets. We showed it is possible, with concerted effort, to close the gap by 2020 with these measures. But the costs are significant - US$3.4 billion over the next 8 years. Given the complexity of large storage hydropower projects and the time needed to build them, those investments were not included among the proposed solutions to solve the near-term challenges. The report has been done in parallel with the Rogun assessment studies and does not prejudge the proposed Rogun project.

Implementing the recommendations from the winter energy report would require political will and international cooperation, and we are already working with the Government of Tajikistan and development partners to start the process.

Q6: How would you describe the energy and water situation in Central Asia?

SKJ: Central Asia is endowed with water and rich and varied energy resources. Water resources, which are increasingly under stress, have an important geographic and economic dimension, with downstream countries highly dependent on upstream countries for essential water for irrigation. Water and energy in Central Asia are central for poverty alleviation, food security, community livelihoods, and job creation. For example, two million households experience winter heat and power shortages. The energy-water linkages become inseparable from interests of national security, regional stability and economic growth, and need to be urgently addressed in a cooperative manner. The Bank’s approach to water and energy issues in Central Asia is based on both regional and country level programs which aim to deliver benefits to each country in the region. We also closely work with our development partners to help ensure coordinated assistance.

As part of its regional approach, the Bank – in partnership with DfID, SECO, and the European Commission – has initiated a comprehensive Central Asia Energy-Water Development Program (CAEWDP), which covers both the water and energy sectors, aims to improve analysis to support the countries of the region in well-informed decision-making, strengthen regional institutions, and stimulate investments. Among other activities, CAEWDP supports the multi-country Amu Darya Basin riparian dialogue, as well as analytical work for the proposed Central Asia – South Asia transmission line called CASA-1000.  CAEWDP is also examining the economic value of increased energy trade within Central Asia and is guiding, with direction from all five countries, investments in the knowledge base (encompassing data, modeling and information sharing), new investments in hydrometeorology, and identification of adaptation measures for climate change. The Bank is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of factors enabling and constraining water-related growth in the region.

To complement the regional work and dialogue, the Bank is supporting 32 country-specific investments in energy and water projects and a similar number of studies and advisory services in Central Asia. Many have regional significance and benefits while others deliver more localized country level benefits. Let me give you some examples of our projects in energy and water sectors in individual countries of the region.

In Kazakhstan, the Bank has funded a long-term program to improve water-based economic and environmental conditions in the northern portions of the Syr Darya River and Aral Sea. The recently completed Nura River Project helped clean up mercury pollution in this important river. In the energy sector, the Bank has helped establish a state-of-the-art power system management and dispatch center, and upgrade the transmission network throughout the country.

In Uzbekistan, the Bank has supported water management in the Ferghana Valley. An energy efficiency credit-line through Uzbek commercial banks helps achieve energy efficiency in the industrial enterprises. In the power sector, the Bank is supporting transmission system upgrades to increase supply reliability and reduce technical and commercial losses. Three quarters of our portfolio in Uzbekistan focuses on water and energy.

In the Kyrgyz Republic, the Bank has funded a project to improve irrigation service delivery through Water User Associations. The energy component of the ongoing Emergency Recovery Project is helping with essential repairs, rehabilitation, and fuel to keep the system running. In Kyrgyzstan and also in Tajikistan, the Bank is supporting a project to improve hydrometeorology services and data, with a focus on these two countries but with a component for regional coordination.

In Tajikistan, in partnership with its private sector affiliate (IFC) and the Government of Switzerland, the Bank financed the Pamir Energy Project, a public-private partnership to deliver electricity to a highly remote mountainous area in the eastern part of the country. Together with the Swiss Government, we are also financing and implementing a successful energy loss reduction program. And, as I mentioned before, our recent winter energy study identifies measures to help Tajikistan resolve its acute winter energy deficit in the near term.


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