EU Allocates Funds for HPP Construction in Tajikistan
The seventh meeting of the Tajikistan-EU Cooperation Committee and the second meeting of the Cooperation Sub-Committee were both held in Dushanbe on June 6. The meetings reaffirmed the joint commitment of the EU and Tajikistan to strengthen relations within the framework of the EU-Tajikistan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. To improve the well-being of vulnerable populations by providing them with electricity, the EU awarded a 20 million euro ($22 million) grant to support the Sebzor hydroelectric power plant (HPP) construction in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), and started construction in July 2015.
The $36.8 million project, with a capacity of 10 MW, is expected to meet the region’s demand in electricity and allow exporting electricity to the neighboring areas of Afghanistan. The plant will also generate up to $60 million KW/h of electricity per year, and is being constructed at the expense of domestic and foreign investors for the period of 2009-2020. The Government of the Republic of Tajikistan is planning to achieve full energy independence throughout the country, and the plant is set to help achieve this goal.
Tajikistan is actively developing its plants in order to improve its domestic energy sector and generate electricity for export. However, lack of funds and technology support is a problem faced by the Tajik government. Because of this, nations such as the United States, China, Germany, Russia, India, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, and number of international financial institutions, have actively worked in the energy sector of Tajikistan over the past decade — either as investors or suppliers of equipment and technical services. The EU, most notably, has increased its engagement with Tajikistan significantly. Nevertheless, why did the EU decide to fund for Sebzor plant particularly? And what does it mean for the European Union? The unique location of Sebzor plant may explain its political significance.
The bordering area of the Sebzor HPP, Afghanistan’s Badakhshan, is one of the most remote and inaccessible regions in the world. Often cut off from the rest of Afghanistan during the winter months, the region lacks energy infrastructure; many residents find themselves using kerosene, coal, dung, and firewood to light, heat and cook in their homes. Continuing reliance on these traditional fuels has inhibited the region’s economic development and has had a severe environmental impact, leading to widespread deforestation and destructive landslides. By exporting electricity to the region, the Sebzor plant can promote the rural development in Afghanistan and reach the isolated communities beyond the reach of national distribution networks.
Moreover, Taliban insurgencies frequently occur in Badakhshan. Taliban militants have controlled the Arghanj Khaw district, which is the center of Badakhshan. The development of the HPP could expand the distribution network into areas affected by the Taliban insurgency, and could serve as a politically viable solution to the problem of improving the stability in the region.
The HPP could be seen as a signal of the EU’s growing engagement in Central Asia. President of the European Council Donald Tusk’s emphasized building “transport, energy, and digital connections” during his recent visit to Tajikistan. The EU’s new fund for the Sebzor HPP proved his point. With funds from the European Union, we can wait and see the future development of this project, and whether it could accomplish the goal of distributing electricity in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.