Russia becomes important player in Central Asian water problem

Oil&Gas Materials 21 September 2012 17:25 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, Sept. 21 / Trend V. Zhavoronkova/

Russia may become an important player in the Central Asian water dispute, the U.S. expert on Central Asia Bruce Pannier believes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Kyrgyzstan on Thursday, when the two countries came to a number of agreements including such important strategic issues as military bases, Kyrgyz foreign debt and regional water problem.

The sides agreed that Russia will be involved in the construction of hydropower plant in Kyrgyzstan, which are opposed by Uzbekistan.

"Russia's help with Kyrgyzstan's hydropower plants is a good example of both sides getting something out of a deal," expert wrote Trend via e-mail on Friday.

Pannier believes that by reaching this agreement Bishkek will get the Kambar-Ata-1 HPP and the Upper Naryn Cascade chain built, and receive extra electricity that is badly needed by the country.

The fact that Russia will be building these projects and later be part-owners of them insures Bishkek that Tashkent will have to be dealing with Moscow in case of any dissatisfaction from Uzbek side, expert added.

Since Russian companies are involved in major HPPs in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the Kremlin has some control over Central Asia's water, he said.

The Russian President proposed Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to participate in the hydropower projects in Kyrgyzstan.

Pannier believes that Putin's offer to include Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was interesting.

"If Uzbekistan does not join in, and I doubt it will soon, then Tashkent appears to be simply not interested in regional cooperation," he said. "If Uzbekistan faces water shortages or has complaints in the future, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan can all say "we asked you to participate and you said 'no.'"

The expert believes Kazakhstan will probably join the projects.

"Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have already discussed the shared energy grids that would bring electricity from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan and possibly further into Russian Siberia," he said.

Kazakhstan has more money it could invest into projects in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Pannier added.