| SANGTUDA, Tajikistan
SANGTUDA, Tajikistan Dec 15 Tajikistan, hit by
severe power shortages, started damming a major mountain river
on Friday to build a new hydroelectric plant as it seeks to
secure steady energy supplies.
The $500 million, 670 megawatt Sangtuda-1 plant, which
Tajikistan is building with Russian electricity monopoly Unified
Energy System (UES) EESR.RTS, is due to start producing
electricity next year and reach full capacity in 2009.
"(The plant) will help Tajikistan cover its domestic energy
deficit," said Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov after engineers
used a series of landmine explosions to block the Vakhsh river.
The mountainous former Soviet nation, which has some of the
world's largest hydro resources, has long experienced
This year shortages were particularly severe due to supply
disruptions at the key Soviet-era Nurek hydro plant, also on the
Vakhsh river, which supplies most of the country's electricity.
The shortage has caused blackouts across the impoverished
Muslim nation, which borders Afghanistan.
Tajikistan's electricity-heavy Tajik Aluminium Smelter,
which accounts for two-thirds of the country's hard currency
earnings, has not been affected by the shortages, officials
The Sangtuda plant will produce 2.7 billion kilowatt hours a
year after it reaches full capacity, officials said. A UES
subsidiary will own 75 percent of the plant, and the Tajik
government will control the rest.
Experts believe Tajikistan has the potential to produce up
to 520 billion kWh a year.
The country is still recovering from civil war in the 1990s,
which ruined its economy and left 100,000 people dead.