During Soviet times, the Soviet government arranged the allocation of water and electricity resources in Central Asia. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, these arrangements were kept in place by the Central Asian countries through signing the Almaty Agreement in 1992. However, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan developed competing needs for water. Uzbekistan needs water resources for irrigation, since the country is economically dependent on agriculture. Tajikistan needs water in order to generate hydropower as it lacks electricity supply.
In order for Tajikistan to be independent from Uzbekistan in its electricity supply, Tajikistan expressed its aims to resume the construction of the Rogun Dam. The construction of this dam had already started in 1976 but halted when the civil war (1992-1997) broke out in Tajikistan. As soon as Tajikistan expressed these aims, Uzbekistan showed its concerns and opposed the construction of the dam.
Tajikistan requested the World Bank´s involvement in the process. The World Bank conducted a feasibility study, which was finished in June 2014. In order to test the feasibility of the Rogun Dam and its impact on the Vakhsh cascade projects, the World Bank facilitated consultation meetings for the riparian countries and two reports were issued on the feasibility of the dam. The World Bank recruited different independent parties to conduct the feasibility studies. The role of the World Bank itself was to monitor and supervise the study and its process. In June 2014, the World Bank eventually gave a positive opinion on the construction of the Dam.
Despite the attempt to mitigate the conflict over water resources between the riparian countries, the feasibility studies did not contribute to improved cooperation between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In July 2015, the Uzbek government announced that it will under no circumstances support the construction of the dam.
- Neutral third party involvement is not necessarily a guarantee for improvement of transboundary cooperation over water.
- Facilitating a dialogue between different stakeholders is important in order to foster cooperation. Dialogue refers to a discussion with the purpose of enhancing mutual understanding. The World Bank facilitated meetings in order to enhance the mutual understanding between all six riparian states. However, Uzbekistan chose not to fully participate in these meetings.
- A broad strategy needs to be developed in order to satisfy both countries´ needs for water. This means that dialogue needs to be stimulated between the countries in order to obtain a shared strategy. With the aid of a strategy, the countries are more likely to cooperate over their shared water resources.
- The TEAS and ESIA reports which were presented by the World Bank are a good attempt to provide a neutral way to assess the feasibility of the possible construction of the Rogun Dam and its impact on other Vakhsh cascade projects. However, political and cultural factors play a significant role in conflicts. These factors should also be considered by the third party.
- Intervention tools of conflict resolution, like facilitation, fact-finding and dispute review boards and panels need to be established in order to attempt to mitigate conflict over water resources.
Photo: The Rogun Dam site, by Richard Fuggle.