Iran has begun transporting equipment to Tajikistan for the construction of a controversial hydropower plant.
Ali Asghar Sherdust, Iranian ambassador to Tajikistan, said today that 75 tons of mainly electronic equipment to be used in the construction of the Sangtuda-2 hydropower plant (HPP) were flown into Dushanbe from Iran on December 29.
Sherdust said the air shipments of the equipment are the only way to avoid postponing the completion of the project. He added that Iran has had difficulty in the past year transporting construction materials and equipment for Sangtuda-2 through Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan says the planned hydropower plants in Tajikistan will have a negative impact because they will reduce the amount of water available to Uzbekistan for agricultural purposes.
This year, some 2,000 railroad cars with construction materials bound for Tajikistan were unable to pass through Uzbekistan to Tajikistan. At least 20 train cars were sent by Iran for Sangtuda-2.
Iran warned Uzbekistan that if the blockage continued Tehran will reserve the right to block Uzbek railroad cars that are transiting Iranian territory. The deadlock was then resolved for a short period before resuming again.
Sherdust noted that soon transformers and turbines for Sangtuda-2 will be flown to Tajikistan. He added that turbines for Sangtuda-2 are being produced in China and have already been transferred to the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.
Sherdust said each turbine weighs 140 tons and that special transport planes have been acquired for flying the equipment to Dushanbe.
At the Economic Cooperation Organization summit last week, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, promised that the first turbine at Sangtuda-2 will begin producing electricity in 2011.
Construction of Sangtuda-2, a 220-megawatt plant on the Vakhsh River, was begun by the Iranian company Sangob in 2008. It is located some 100 kilometers south of Dushanbe.
Iran has invested $180 million and Tajikistan $40 million in the project thus far and the necessary air transport of key equipment could increase the final costs of the project.
According to an agreement, Iran will own Sangtuda-2 for the first 12 years of its operations and will then turn it over to Tajikistan. Tajikistan suffers a severe shortage of electricity every winter and hopes that the new power plant will help resolve this problem.
Copyright (c) 2010. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.