On June 8-14, member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held a joint military exercise, Peace Mission 2012, at the Chorukh-Dayron training range in Sughd Province, northern Tajikistan. According to the Tajik Ministry of Defense, the exercise was designed to test and strengthen the capacity of the SCO member states to respond jointly to terrorist threats in Central Asia’s mountainous areas.
Around 2,000 troops from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan took part in the week-long drills. Chinese forces participating in the exercise included a motorized infantry company and an artillery unit. Russia dispatched some 350 troops reinforced by armored personnel carriers and tanks from the 201st Military Base in Tajikistan, and ground attack aircraft from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) base in Kant, Kyrgyzstan. Kazakhstan contributed a battalion from an air assault brigade, as well as fighter jets, combat helicopters, and armored personnel carriers. Kyrgyzstan sent a Special Forces unit and a mountain warfare company. Tajikistan’s forces participating in the drills included an air assault unit, a motorized rifle battalion reinforced with tanks, military transport helicopters, and personnel from the Ministry of Emergencies. This was the smallest Peace Mission drills staged by the SCO since 2003.
Because the exercise was staged in Tajikistan, it was led by the Tajik Ground Forces Commander, Major General Emomali Sobirov. The host country’s president, Emomali Rahmon, attended the training ground on June 14 to observe the final stage of the exercise. Playing good hosts, the authorities in Dushanbe hailed Peace Mission 2012 as a “success” and praised the “increasing spirit of cooperation” within the SCO.
On November 3, Tajik authorities announced that they had completed the main diversion tunnel of the Rogun Dam project. This means that it is now technically possible to divert the Vakhsh River from the part of the valley in which they plan to place the giant dam. Dewatering the construction areas will allow the authorities to start building the facility (www.avesta.tj, November 3).
According to Tajik hydropower experts, there are strong technical reasons for blocking the river as soon as possible. The lake created behind the temporary dam when the river is diverted will enable the authorities to accumulate water next spring and summer. This water can be released in winter so that downstream hydropower plants (HPPs) convert it into additional electricity, helping the country to prevent blackouts (www.avesta.tj, November 3). Besides, the lake will stop the sedimentation of the Norak HPP’s reservoir further downstream, which is reportedly close to reaching a critical level (www.regnum.ru, November 7). Any serious breakdown of the Norak facility, which produces about 70 percent of the country’s electricity output, will have catastrophic consequences for the country. Overall, according to the company building the dam, “the diversion of the river is technically possible now,” but, “the decision to block the river flow is essentially political and has to come from the highest level” (www.avesta.tj, November 3), that is, from the country’s president.
On June 1, World Bank director of strategy and operations in Europe and Central Asia Theodore Ahlers announced that the Tajik government temporarily put a halt to a program for resettling tens of thousands of villagers from the projected reservoir area of the giant Rogun Dam. According to Ahlers, the resettlement was suspended until the results of two ongoing World Bank commissioned studies, which look at the dam’s economic feasibility and its potential social and environmental impact, become available. These studies, expected to be completed in late 2012, will help the Tajik authorities to develop a proper resettlement framework based on the needs of the affected populations.
The effort to resettle people from the zone that will be flooded behind what is projected to become the world’s tallest dam was launched in 2009. A special government regulation adopted in January 2009 envisaged the moving of more than 4,700 families, or about 30,000 people, from 63 villages in the districts of Rogun and Nurobod to Dangara, Tursunzade, and Darband. According to official reports, 600 families were resettled from the projected reservoir area in 2009, and about 1,000 families were relocated in 2010. These reports fail to mention, however, that many of the formally resettled families, particularly elderly family members, have continued living in their native villages.
I do not usually use this blog to post articles that have not been written by me, but maybe it is time to change the practice. EurasiaNet.org has just published a very interesting article about ethnic Uzbeks living in Tajikistan. The piece is reposted below.
Tajikistan’s Ethnic Uzbeks: Poor Like Everyone, But Sidelined More
Originally published by EurasiaNet.org, February 24, 2011
Ask one of the million-plus ethnic Uzbeks living in Tajikistan how bad life is and he’ll quickly admit: It could be worse. Looking across the border into Kyrgyzstan, many give thanks they have been spared the pogroms suffered by Uzbek communities there twice in the last generation. But Uzbeks in Tajikistan often feel that state policy works against them, and sometimes it seems that the best keeper of the peace among ordinary people has been the deplorable poverty common to them all.