Thursday, January 24, 2008

The weather seems to be getting colder still… I think the humidity is increasing so the cold goes right through you; at least that’s what it feels like. It makes it harder to warm up too, seeing as indoors is little relief from the cold temperatures. My small heaters can’t seem to keep up with the constant cold, my apartment hovers around 10C. The only real relief is to take a hot bath, and I am lucky to have that priveledge! Most people have not had water for weeks becuase the pipes are frozen solid; it is also because I have electricity that I have hot water... a luxury VERY few of us currently have! I have also adapted by moving my stove into my living room... now I don't have to battle the cold to make a hot drink to warm up (kind of worked against itself).

When will the bitter winter end? Apparently no time soon -


The harshest winter in decades is plunging Tajikistan into a socio-economic crisis, as officials find themselves squeezed in a tightening vice of tough choices. The country currently is grappling with an energy emergency, with some areas now left totally without electricity. Efforts to solve the crisis, however, could cause a disastrous spike in inflation in a country where over 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Temperatures in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, have hovered around minus-20 degrees Celsius over the past few weeks. The minus-22 reading recorded in Dushanbe on January 19 was the lowest recorded temperature in the city since 1982. The country’s antiquated infrastructure has not been able to cope with the cold, prompting drastic cuts in electricity.

In Dushanbe, residents still receive a couple of hours of power every day, but many report having no heating. The situation is far worse outside the capital. For example, electricity has been completely cut off to several districts of southern Khatlon Province, according to the Asia-Plus news agency. Schools have shut down and many businesses and light industrial enterprises have ceased operations. The deaths of several newborns in hospitals have been attributed to the combination of the cold and the lack of power. The crisis is such that officials decided on January 15 to divert a limited amount of electricity from the Tajik Aluminum Plant – one of the country’s main economic assets, and its largest single consumer of power – for civilian needs.

Compounding the crisis is the fact that the Nurek reservoir and dam complex, which is currently responsible for generating most of the country’s domestically produced electricity, is experiencing a low water level. As a result, according to the state power company Barq-i Tajik, several of the dam’s turbines are unable to function. Meanwhile, much needed supplies from neighboring states have dwindled. Despite a contractual obligation to supply 10 million kilowatt hours per day (kw/h), Uzbekistan in early January cut off electricity exports. At the same time, Turkmenistan is exporting just 3 million kw/h per day.

For many Tajiks, the power cuts have highlighted the lack of progress made by President Imomali Rahmon’s administration in implementing infrastructure development projects. Several power-generating dams are in various stages of construction. One, dubbed Sangtuda-1, actually began operating on January 20. But the facility’s expected generating capacity of 2.7 million kw/h per day won’t have much of an impact on alleviating the crisis. Dushanbe alone consumes an estimated 12 million kw/h per day.

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