November 16, 2018 / 3:16 PM / in 8 months

Tajikistan starts up first turbine in dam set to be world's tallest

A general view shows a construction site of Rogun hydroelectric power station on the Vakhsh River ahead of the launch of its first turbine, east of country's capital Dushanbe, Tajikistan November 14, 2018. Picture taken November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Nozim Kalandarov

DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Tajikistan started the first turbine of its Rogun hydroelectric power plant on Friday, part of a dam project that aims to secure the Central Asian nation’s energy independence.

The former Soviet republic issued its first Eurobond last year to help finance the project, which will include the world’s tallest dame when it is completed in 2026.

Italy’s Salini Impregilo won a $3.9 billion contract, making it the biggest single investment in Tajikistan since it gained independence in 1991.

The government hopes the plant will help end power rationing in winter months while also allowing Tajikistan to boost energy exports its neighbors, such as Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.

“This historical date will be inscribed in golden letters in Tajikistan’s modern history and will be a source of pride for the next generation,” Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon said as he started the power plant, 100 km (62 miles) east of Dushanbe.

The launch ceremony followed by a fireworks show televised on outdoors screens across the nation.

At Friday’s launch of the first turbine, the dam on the Vakhsh river in the Pamir mountains was just 75 meters (yards) tall. By 2026, it will to rise to 335 meters and will have six turbines with installed capacity of 3,600 megawatts (MW).

Starting the turbines gradually before the dam’s completion will help finance construction. Tajikistan’s Finance Ministry estimates the project will require $4 billion to complete.

Uzbekistan, which lies downstream, previously voiced concerns about the impact on the water flows to Uzbek farmers. But Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who took power after Islam Karimov died in 2016, has softened Tashkent’s stance and eased tensions.

Reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Edmund Blair

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