(Corrects spelling of name of hydroelectric plant)
* First Kyrgyz hydro plant since Soviet Union
* More hydro projects planned
* Intense competition for C.Asian water
By Olga Dzyubenko
TOKTOGUL, Kyrgyzstan, Aug 30 Kyrgyzstan launched
a $200 million hydroelectric power station on Monday, its first
since the collapse of the Soviet Union, in a move likely to
intensify competition for Central Asia's scarce water resources.
Acting President Roza Otunbayeva pressed a symbolic red
button to start the first unit of the Kambarata-2 hydro project.
The project, funded partly by Russia, will allow Kyrgyzstan to
generate more power but could divert water from its neighbours.
"This launch will help our nation to prosper," Otunbayeva
said at the ceremony. "Our success shows that our country can
The interim government of Kyrgyzstan, which hosts U.S. and
Russian military air bases, has struggled to impose its control
since a popular revolt in April propelled it to power. Nearly
400 people were killed during ethnic clashes in June.
Kyrgyzstan resumed construction of the Kambarata-2 project,
abandoned in the 1990s, three years ago. The project was later
able to draw on a $300 million loan from Russia to help revive
the country's economy and infrastructure.
"Electricity and gold mining are the two wings of our
economy," Otunbayeva said. Each contribute around 10 percent of
Kyrgyzstan's gross domestic product.
"We will be able to live well in both winter and summer, and
are increasing our export potential," she said. "The wasteful
discharge of water in summer will be stopped."
Kyrgyzstan's ambitions to control the flow of its rivers in
order to generate more hydroelectric power are of particular
concern to Uzbekistan, its immediate neighbour to the west and
the most populous post-Soviet republic in Central Asia.
Uzbekistan relies on rivers that originate or pass through
Kyrgyzstan and another mountainous neighbour, Tajikistan, to
irrigate its arid cotton fields and farmland. It has opposed
plans for large hydroelectric projects in both countries.
The first unit of the Kambarata-2 hydroelectric project will
allow Kyrgyzstan to produce an additional 500 million to 700
million kilowatt hours per year of electricity. The country
currently generates about 14 billion kilowatt hours annually.
It is only the first of several projects planned along the
Naryn river, which rises in the Tien Shan mountains and is
dammed at Toktogul, the largest reservoir in Kyrgyzstan, before
running on to merge with another river to become the Syr Darya.
Otunbayeva said a second unit, also costing $200 million,
was planned for Kambarata-2. This would be followed by a third
unit and simultaneous construction of the larger Kambarata-1
"Of course, we will cooperate on this plan with Uzbekistan,"
she told reporters.
She also said a delegation from Russian power firm Inter RAO
IUES.MM would visit Kyrgyzstan to discuss future projects.
(Writing by Robin Paxton; Editing by Angus MacSwan)