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PROCEEDINGS of the High Level Meeting on Regional Riparian Issues in the Context of the "World Bank Note on Key Issues for Consideration on the Proposed Rogun Hydropower Project"
Statement by Mr. RustamAzimov,
First Deputy Prime-minister and Minister of Finance
of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I. Assessment studies of the Rogun HPP are not consistent with generally accepted international standards
To begin with, I would like to particularly emphasize that until today Uzbekistan has not participated in any meetings initiated at interim stages of the so-called “assessment studies” of Rogun Hydropower Plant construction project.
It was reasoned by our sincere belief that organization of those studies, selection of consultants, financing arrangements, defining the terms of reference and other key aspects which are crucial for the final results of the studies, do not meet internationally recognized standards of independent, impartial, objective and transparent project appraisal.
Primarily, our belief is based on the fact that contrary to an obvious logic and principles of sound practices, the roles of the bidding organizer and of the principal of the World Bank financed “studies” had been assigned to the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan, the party most interested in the process. This completely contradicts to generally accepted standards of equal treatment of all interested parties and, thus, is totally unacceptable.
Another critical issue is suspension of all construction works on the site until the studies are completed. Conducting full-fledge construction and installation activities on the site, while the feasibility of the construction is not yet determined, is not consistent with a basic logic and explicitly reflects the attitude towards the whole exercise.
The World Bank had numerous opportunities to establish for itself that concerns of Uzbekistan are well groundedby witnessing construction works at the site of Rogun Hydropower Plantperformed under disguise of rehabilitation activities and about USD 300 million annual allocations from the state budget of Tajikistan for these purposes. The scale of these expenditures is a clear demonstration of the scope of the construction works in progress.
In addition, a professionally conducted studies, claiming to be a complete assessment, had to include a comprehensive evaluation of the potential adverse impact of the project on environment and run-off conditions throughout the whole the Amudarya river basin, and also the detailed analysis of the feasibility of alternativesto such a massive project as the Rogun Hydropower Plant project.
Views of Uzbekistan on all those issues were timely submitted to the World Bank. Nevertheless, those views were not taken into account, notwithstanding their fundamental importance, and no appropriate answers to questions steaming from these views are provided in the published studies.
Uzbekistan hoped that the World Bank would adhere to the basic principles of good faith, transparency, objectivity and best international practice in its activity on the Rogun Hydropower Plant Project.
We have to state with much regret that our hope was vein. The World Bank, with persistence worthy of better cause, ignored the majority of arguments and well-reasoned points concerning widespread threats of the project of man-made, environmental, social and economic nature. It is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the published reports failed to provide any convincing responses to the key issues raised by the Republic of Uzbekistan repeatedly.
In this situation, the Authorities of Uzbekistan have taken a decision to send its delegation to today’s meeting to state our principal views on the Project, and to present our assessment of the findings of the so-called “assessment studies” of Rogun Hydropower Project
II. Critical issues on the project’s fundamentals
Over the last two days, our experts, who have a vast experience in designing, building and operating large-scale hydro technical facilities in the region, another time provided detailed conclusions and comments on the studies. Therefore, I would like to focus on key issues and the fundamental position of the Republic of Uzbekistan on Rogun Hydropower project.
To our much regret, the Techno-Economic Assessment Study For Rogun Hydroelectric Construction Project, 3 volumes of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and the World Bank Note on Key Issues for Consideration on the Proposed Rogun Hydropower Project failed to provide any convincing or at least decisive and competent answers to the key issues related to vital interests of the riparian countries in the lower the Amudarya, in particular, of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Outdated project design
To start with, I would like to remind once again that Rogun Hydropower Plant Project design was developed 44 years ago, during the period of Soviet gigantomania, and at present time is totally outdated both in terms of technical approaches, construction standards, environmental and safety standards. The consultants’ reports give an impression that they did not understand or consciously ignored the fact that the approaches to construction of such massive facilities along with technical standards have completely changed over the past period:
First, the methodologies of seismic loads estimations have changed fundamentally, new requirements to seismic modeling have been introduced, the criteria for dam stability factors have become a way more stringent, requirements on application of non-linear models that take into account ground flow and new, stricter methods for defining basic hydrogeological characteristics have been introduced;
Second, the environmental standards have changed completely and the relevance of thorough analysis of environmental risks has increased significantly, especially, at the background of Aral Sea disaster.
Besides, RogunHydropwer Project is not merely an outdated one. Since it aims construction of the highest dam in the world situated in the area of tectonic fault and on a massive salt dome, the project design is extremely complicated technically, yet still based on engineering solutions and standards of the past century. For this reason, just regular review cannot fully embrace all aspects of the project and the requirements to assessment of the project shall be by far stricter.
The documents presented contain a number of omissions, shortcomings and miscalculations, which potentially will lead to poor decisions inclined to exceptionally serious disastrous consequences for the Central Asian region, due to insufficient consideration of the real risks of the project including:
a) The risk of man-made disaster
High seismicity of the Hissar-KokshaalskyandIlyaksko-Vakhsh faults areas selected for the construction of the dam, right above moving tectonic plates has been confirmed in the consultants’ reports. Since the beginning of 2013, the US Geological Survey has reported on 250 earthquakes in the area of construction of Rogun Hydropower Plant of magnitude 4 and above equivalent to Richter scale, including 12 strong earthquakes of magnitude 6 and above . According to geological studies and expert estimations there is a high probability of disastrous earthquakes of magnitude 9 and higher in the region.
It is worth recalling the catastrophic earthquake of 1911 of magnitude 9, which caused formation of Usoy Dam and Sarezlake whose immense hazard is recognized by UN, the World Bank and other international organizations.
However, while being well informed that high seismicity of the construction area is one of the biggest risks of the project, and not excluding the scenario of Rogun dam rupture, which in consultants opinion will ”dramatically affect” the downstream countries, their proposal is limited to conducting seismic evaluation at further stages of the project and creating a micro seismic monitoring network.
Such recommendations cannot be considered as competent conclusion or even more or less logical recommendation. They absurdly recommend us to build another Lake Sarez with our own hands being fully conscious of the consequences, and then stay busy monitoring it regularly.
Another extremely dangerous aspect is that the highest in the world 335 meters dam and main hydraulic structures are intended to be constructed on 100 m salt dome, without designing a package of proven protection measures.
We are greatly concerned that the key expert evaluations of the project impact on the salt dome were carried out in the laboratory conditions, which absolutely do not correspond to the reality. In actual conditions, under high water pressure and with occurrence of lime stone deposits, the processes of dissolution can expedite considerably, and, as it was mentioned in the geological report, form cavities up to 7-8 meter large, which inevitably will lead to a complete collapse of the dam.
The fact that the consultants have proposed only to drill a few wells and to monitor the process of possible salt diffusion, confirms the absence of the really effective design solutions that could exclude the risk of the dam collapse caused by the salt deposit erosion.
In this regard, one is bound to ask a natural question: how millions of people should feel when their lives depend on the laboratory tests of consultants and the quality of monitoring over the salt diffusion process under the base of the dam that can collapse at any time and unleash billions tons of water with wave of hundred meters, wiping off everything on its way? Compared to this wave, the 15 meter wave of the 2011 tsunami in Japan that caused Fukushima disaster, can look like a light sea breeze.
Lack of distinct answers to above questions is not the only omission in the consultants’ reports. Critical neglect in their work identified by Uzbekistan experts include erroneous figures for the maximum mudflows. The consultants’ conclusions indicate that mudflows occurred at least once a year over the period from 1971 to 1991, and the maximum volumes of mudflows reached 3,100 million cubic meters in 1983 and 1,185 cubic meters in 1992. Those conclusions implicate that anti- mudflow dam equal to Rogun dam size shall be constructed on Obi-Shur, but this is complete nonsense.
The list of similarly serious flaws include the proposed dam design that is almost fully identical to that of the initial design developed in 1978; in addition to the lack of 3-dimensional model of the dam that would take into account the complex terrain, etc. The Uzbek experts have made reasoned comments on each of these aspects, but nobody heard them, let alone took the comments into consideration.
But the key shortcoming of the technical reports is that on each more or less important aspect of the project consultants recommended to conduct additional research and studies at the next stages of project design development.
We cannot accept that after 3 years of studies, consultants and experts failed to develop specific answers to the following vitally important questions concerning the project:
- exposure to man-made disasters related to geological conditions of the site, potential mudflows, salt dome, etc.;
- ensuring the rights of countries in the middle and lower reaches of the Amudarya to guaranteed volumes and regime of water flow, particularly, during vegetation season;
- environmental risks for the entire region;
- review of effective alternative approaches to resolving the winter power shortage problem of Tajikistan.
Competent and persuasive answers to every party concerned were replaced by recommendations to continue studying these issues during the next stages.
This suggests, neither the World Bank, nor its consultants possess the requisite and sufficient information, or adequate qualification for well-grounded competent conclusions regarding the technical safety of the project and feasibility of its implementation. In other words, the decision on implementation of the project based on the findings of the so-called assessment studies cannot be accepted in principle.
In this regard, a very serious question has been raised whether those multi-volume reports and conclusions are credible for taking any well-grounded decisions. All complicated and sharp questions that require unequivocal answers have been avoided or delayed “for the future”. Therefore, these materials in their present form can represent anything – an essay, preliminary review, thesis, but not professional, qualified and unequivocal assessment of the Rogun Hydropower Project.
Thus, Uzbekistan refuses to consider submitted documents as expert conclusions on the Rogun Hydropower Project as they do not meet the standards of professional expert project review.
Meanwhile, a vivid example supporting the view that construction solutions at the backbone of the Rogun Hydropower Project can cause man-made hazards is the accident on its site in 1993, and the disaster on Sayano-Shushen Hydropower Plant in Russia which have cost the lives of 75 people in 2009. The technical and design solutions developed for this HPP developed in the same period and by the same institutes that designed Rogun HPP.
b) The issues of water supply, environmental issues and natural resources
An impartial analysis shows that the construction of Rogun Hydropower Plant will impact the flow of the Vakshriver, and, consequently, flow of the Amudarya river which will be destructive for water, food and environmental safety of downstream countries.
The World Bank materials suggest that Rogun HPP operations can preserve the “historical flow” of the river Vaksh, which is an absolute nonsense. The consultants support their view by the figures for current average summer flow used in winter, when 4.2 billion of cubic meters of water are transferred from summer to winter period. However, the reason for taking this flow as the historic is not clear, since it covers only the last 20 years out of almost 100 years of observations. Moreover, it is the very period of last 20 years when Tajikistan hydropower authorities changed the regulation regime of the Vakhshriver as the owner of Nurek hydropower system, reducing the summer historic flow by 4.2 billion cubic meters of water, which are held up annually to build up the winter power potential.
The capacity of the Rogun reservoir is sufficient to accumulate the entire Vakhsh river flow in low water year (14 cubic km). It is estimated that if both Rogun and Nurek reservoirs are used in power regime, and there is no doubt, that the Republic of Tajikistan will apply exactly that regime, the water shortage in the middle and lower reaches of the Amudarya in the midterm perspective will annually make about 11.5 cubic km during vegetation period, and 6.5 cubic km throughout a year.
The reports omit convincing arguments and modeling results that would substantiate the statement that river flow will be regulated to benefit of the downstream countries, improve water supply and prevent floods. Therefore, assurance that the Rogun Hydropower Project will benefit the downstream countries (by supplying additional water in dry years) are intentionally misleading, as it is totally clear that the proposed flow regimes will cause disastrous damage for the areas in lower reach, and it will be even more severe during the dry years.
The World Bank experts only casually touched upon the key issue of Rogun HPP construction enable to increase the annual volume of water withheld in the reservoir to 7.4 cubic kilometers.
This fact is the essence of the project – to obtain a mechanism, or a tool in other words that will enable its owner to dictate unilaterally the harsh terms of water discharge to downstream countries, especially during vegetation of agricultural crops.
Furthermore, taking into account the extreme water scarcity in Central Asia, this mechanism can be converted into explicit tool of political pressure on downstream countries, provoking escalation of confrontation and growth of conflict potential in the region.
The decrease in the Amudarya river flow by 7.4 cubic kilometers per annum, which was admitted by the consultants, will turn 385 thousand hectares into barren land. In a low water year, this figure could exceed 500 thousand hectares. Among immediate consequences is the loss of income sources by 9.5 thousand farmers. If the farmers’ and hired laborers families are taken into account, the above number exceeds 1.5 million people who lose source of income.
The most explosive prospective outcome in this situation is a potential of conflict escalating not only between the governments, but primarily between populations of neighboring countries, with millions of people prepared for any actions to access potable and irrigation water for their own and their children. It is frightening even to picture the consequences.
In response to these concerns, the World Bank only expresses “hope that Tajikistan will provide reasonable assurances to downstream countries”. But how? Who will guarantee unconditional enforcement of international law, protection of interests of downstream countries – the World Bank or its consultants? The Bank prefers not to answer these apparent questions.
The shallow and unprofessional approach of the consultants is highlighted by the fact that the estimates of maximum water discharge of the Vakhshriver are based on the methodology used in the Southeast Asian countries and other regions, where the watercourse is formed exclusively by rainfall precipitation. It is a common fact that the watercourse in rivers of Central Asia, particularly the Vakhshriver is formed by ice and snow cap melting. Therefore, in this case, the estimate of impact assessment shall be based on the calculations of maximum air temperature, quantity and length of solar days, cloudiness, etc., such data have been omitted by the consultants, hence their impact assessments and conclusions of insignificance of Rogun HPP on the watercourse of the Vakhsh and Amudarya rivers turn out to be unjustified and unprofessional.
Furthermore, actual throughput of existing facilities of the Vaksh Cascade is about 5400 – 5760 cubic meters/second, if we take the consultants’ estimationof maximum water discharge at the level of 8160 cubic meters/second, then as per requirements of the regulatory documents, additional water discharge facilities through the entire cascade of HPPs needs to be constructed with the correspondent increase in the cost of Rogun Hydropower Project. Otherwise, all cascade facilities will be destroyed. But consultants did not reply rationally to this question either.
c) Socio-economic impact
Absolutely unprofessional or biased approach of the studies proven by the fact that the World Bank’s report and conclusions on the project’s environmental and socio-economic impacts limited to assessment of impact on Tajikistan’s area in proximate vicinity to the project site. Mainly, it is the assessment of impact on resettlement of approximately six thousand families in the project area.
It is quite difficult to grasp the logic of the impact assessment of the massive project located on one of the largest rivers of Central Asia that excludes assessment of social impact and losses in the middle and lower reaches of the Amudaryariver. It is difficult to interpret this logic other than as intentional desire to hide the project’s real threats to the fragile environmental balance of the Central Asia region, and, first of all, its threat to the Aral Sea basin area, which directly affect sustainable development of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.
The magnitude of omissions in the studies conducted by the consultants hired by the Government of Tajikistan becomes evident at the background of research by universities of New Mexico and North Dakota in USA. This research shows that the water scarcity resulting from the construction of Rogun Hydropower Plant will cost Uzbekistan USD 600 million annually in agriculture alone, reduce the country’s GDP by 2 %, and make jobless at least 340 thousand of its citizens. Uzbekistan will be forced to remove 506 thousand hectares (around 11% of total irrigated agricultural land) from agricultural use. In dry years, losses in agriculture sector will increase to USD 1 billion.
Still, what money can compensate the adverse impact on lives and means of livelihood of millions of people living in the middle and lower reaches of the Amudaryariver in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, forced resettlement of hundreds of thousands of them and associated sufferings and losses brought by implementation of this project.
The researchers are definite in their conclusions – the construction of Rogun HPP will trigger immense losses to Uzbekistan’s economy. In summer time, the reduced water flow in the Amudarya will result in water shortages and drought, which subsequently will lead to loss of income for millions of people employed in the agriculture sector in lower reaches of the river. In winter season, the Amudarya will rise, leading in the downstream to flooded orchards and fields, direct hazards to local population, massive destruction of buildings, roads, and other infrastructure.
According to the consultant’s reports, it will take 16 years to fill the water reservoir after completion of construction of Rogun HPP. During this period, the basin of the Amudarya, one of the two main rivers in the region, will experience extreme water shortages.
The fact that the consultants merely ignore catastrophic deterioration of living conditions of millions of people residing downstream cause sincere indignation.
The consultants, and probably World Bank, are not concerned about this. It is obvious that the project’s IRR has been calculated without taking into account exposure of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to all risks and potential losses omitted by the consultants.
Then, what is the value of these studies, if they assess the risks of the project on selective basis and try to “disregard” the concerns of a party that is exposed to the project risks most of all?
How can Uzbekistan, or if it had to be any other country in its place, agree with implementation of such a project? I presume the answer is obvious to everyone.
III. Global views on construction of massive hydro facilities
Given the catastrophic risks, associated with construction of new massive hydro facilities, their enormous costs and questionable end benefits, it is natural that most countries are critically reviewing the feasibility of building large hydropower plants since they do not meet modern environmental standards and requirements of anthropogenic safety.
In this regard, I would like to refer to the recent study of experts of one of the most reputable research centers in the world, which is the Oxford University (UK).They conducted a statistical analysis of all 245 large dams built in the world in the last 70 years and found that large dam projects experienced 100% cost overrun on average, and even higher in case of dams built in low-income countries.
The authors of the study noted that "developing countries in particular, despite seemingly the most in need of complex facilities such as large dams, ought to stay away from bites bigger than they can chew."
According to the experts, the cost of construction of Rogun Hydropower Plant is about USD 5 billion. Based on the international experience, we can confidently assert that the actual cost of construction will take up to USD 10 billion, and with the enabling infrastructure - up to USD 15 billion, that exceeds the GDP of Tajikistan by two times.
Oxford’s specialists, based on their research, haveconcluded that “the scale of contemporary large dams is so vast that even for a large economy the negative economic ramifications could likely hinder the economic viability of the country as a whole”, and “such enormous sums of money ride on the success of megaprojects (such as large dams) that company balance sheets and even government balance-of-payments accounts can be affected for years by the outcomes”.
These words are clearly and logically confirmed by Chile, Brazil and other countries rejecting plans to build large hydropower plants this year, and also by the U.S. Congress adopting in January 2014 the statutory prohibition of support financing of any project aimed at construction of dams higher than 15 m by any international financial institution, where the United States is a shareholder, which naturally applies to the World Bank.
I think that every person present here is well aware that these acts, adopted at the state level, cannot represent a random decision, but carefully thought out action, which logically and naturallyvalidated by life itself. These decisions and legally issued documents are the outcomes of a very thorough study conducted on every appropriate level: scientific, expert, administrative, and at the background of the catastrophic events that have taken place over the past decade.
In this regard, we unfortunately have to state that the assessment studies and conclusions of the World Bank completely ignore and contradict the decisions taken by its member-countries, including legal act adopted by the state, which is the largest shareholder of the Bank. We believe that there is a big misunderstanding, or even an opportunistic approach, which can have very serious negative consequences. Everyone needs to remember that the opportunistic approach never provided benefits to anyone. Thehuge negative effects of the project, of which we warned long time ago, could be prevented by adherence to principled approach only.
IV. Summary and suggestions
Given the above, Uzbekistan states that multi-volume work carried out by the team of the consultants under the aegis of the World Bank is absolutely unacceptable due to the following reasons:
- the project ignores the interests of the riparian states and the norms of international law, including the relevant UN conventions on use of international water resources, focusing on satisfaction of the interests of one country only and completely disregarding the interests of other countries in the middle and lower reaches of the Amudarya.
- the economic section of the report analyzes the impact of different options to cover the shortage of power in Tajikistan, but does not provide an assessment of the project’s damage to the riparian countries, although consultants recognize that the area affected by the project include downstream countries and the Aral Sea;
- insufficient study of technical issues creates a danger of catastrophic risks of destruction not only of the proposed Rogun HPP, but of the entire Vakhsh cascade of hydropower plants.
The most important omission is that the World Bank and consultants accidentally or intentionally overlooked that Tajikistan’s winter power shortage is about 500-600 MW, but not 3,600 MW, which is the capacity of proposed Rogun HPP.
Unfortunately, the consultants neglected in-depth study and analysis of the most obvious, pragmatic and least costly options to solve the Tajikistan’s winter power shortage problem that could become much more attractive alternatives to the Rogun HPP. Uzbek experts studies show that development of hydropower resources of Tajikistan through construction of small and medium hydropower plants could potentially generate up to 30 billion kWh of electric power during the cold season, which is significantly more than the expected output of the Rogun Hydropower Plant at this time of the year (4-6 billion kWh), and requires by far less investments.
We state with regret that it is difficult to ignore the clear and concise logical sequence in the World Bankactions. This year, the Bank has approved financing and implementation of CASA 1000, the high-voltage transmission line project. In fact, the project was approved without determining reliable sources of power generation in sufficient volumes, the exact route of the line, taking into account significant potential losses of power during its transit, final cost of capital investments, and agreed power and transit tariffs
It is obvious that without above key inputs that set a basis of any investment project in the power sector, analyzing feasibility and subsequently approving the project is illogical. The very fact that Kyrgyzstan already today has to import 500 million kWh of power during summer time proves the haste and irrationality of CASA 1000.
Naturally, that both Asian Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank refused to finance this project due to its above shortcomings. Nonetheless, this project was approved by the World Bank.
Yet, today, the World Bank makes conclusion on the viability and feasibility of the Rogun Hydropower Project, and although we have been repeatedly told that these two projects are not connected to each other anyhow, it is clear and obvious to any impartial observer that it is not true.
Thus, our analysis shows that further implementation of the Rogun Hydropower Project, the attempts to push it forward by all means can lead to very serious, irreparable consequences in Central Asia. Both initiators of the project and institutions lobbying it shall realize that its implementation will lead to the following disastrous consequences in the nearest future:
- large-scale environmental changes and worsening of already existing problems in the region;
- disruption of the water flow regime and loss of hundreds of thousands of hectares of cultivated areas in the middle and lower reaches of the Amudarya;
- man-made disasters and deaths of many thousands of people living in the area of the potential shock wave;
- socio-economic consequences in the form of water shortage, drought, famine, loss of income sources by millions of people;
- and most importantly, to escalation of tensions and of conflict potential in the region of Central Asia.
Given the evolving situation when there are no guarantees of unconditional fulfillment by all parties of the UN conventions and international law norms which require that such projects on trans-boundary rivers could be implemented only after obtaining written consents of all downstreamcountries, we believe that continuing preparation of this project and the World Bank’s position of silent approval of the project’s unilateral implementation causes the great harm to the entire Central Asian region and lead to the most serious negative consequences.
Considering the above, Uzbekistan proposes:
- results and conclusions of assessment reports shall be deemed unsatisfactory and insufficient to form a competent conclusion regarding construction of the Rogun HPP;
- to conduct another thorough elaboration and expert assessment of alternative options, including the construction of medium and small hydropower plants with daily accumulation reservoirs, expansion of existing and construction of new thermal power plants based on coal deposits of Tajikistan and use of other rational options that will address the problem of power shortage in Tajikistan faster and with significantly lower capital costs, but without disturbing the water balance and creating catastrophic man-made, environmental and social threats to the region.
Summing up, I would like to state that the findings of the consultants and the panel of experts on Rogun Hydropower Project are completely unacceptable to the Republic of Uzbekistan.
We have to state that the panel of experts and consultants were guided by the principle “to pleasure everyone”. To be more specific, they were guided by the desire to push forward at any cost the project, designed during the Soviet gigantomania era, and ignoring the interests of people and the states in the middle and lower reaches of the Amudarya.
Therefore, there is not a single talk over our agreement with the main conclusions of the documents presented by the Bank.
Uzbekistan never, and under no circumstances, will provide support to this project.
Thank you for your attention.