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June 2011

DROUGHT ALARM IN TURKMENISTAN

Source: The Times of Central Asia, 15.06.2011

Turkmenistan faces an uncertain growing season for its key crops - cotton and cereals - as the prospect of drought looms.

At a video conference with provincial governors on May 29, President Gurbanguly Ber-dymukhammedov instructed them to ensure that sowing and harvesting went strictly to plan.

This year, wheat has been planted on over 850,000 hectares of land and cotton on 820,000 hectares, the aim being to achieve harvests of 1.5 million tons for each crop. But irrigation water is in short supply this year, and a water ministry official says the cotton sowing season has had to be extended to the end of June, with the growing area cut.

"The water shortage is causing friction between cereal farmers and cotton growers. The former need water for their wheat, while the latter can't sow [cotton] without it," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Rice growing, which requires large amounts of water, is also at risk in the Lebap and Dashoguz provinces, where farmers have not even started sowing yet. In Lebap, a commentator said farmers were looking to plant faster-ripening varieties which would be ready to harvest in three rather than four months.

Turkmenistan consists largely of arid desert, so agriculture is heavily reliant on an irrigation network badly in need of renovation. Farmers say the Amu Darya river, Central Asia's biggest waterway and the source of Turkmenistan's irrigation, is exceptionally low this year. As a result, nothing is reaching northern parts of Turkmenistan, while the major Karakum Canal that runs from the Amu Darya through the south of the country is carrying smaller volumes than usual. Many irrigation canals in the country are completely dry.

From east to west, the southern regions of Mary, Ahal and Balkan are all experiencing shortages. In some place, people are using drinking water from their homes - already rationed to one-and-a-half hours three times a day - to keep crops alive. "We have to make the best of it," farmer Medet-Aga said, pointing at a dry water canal. "Tap water is very cold and has a bad effect on plants so we keep it in containers till the sun warms it up."

CHINESE COMPANY TO INVEST $2 BILLION IN KYRGYZ HYDRO POWER PLANTS

Source: The Times of Central Asia, 15.06.2011

China's Sinohydro plans to invest about $2 billion in Kyrgyzstan, Fer-ghana.ru reported on June 3 quoting China's People's Daily.

Kyrgyz First Deputy Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov, during a June 1 meeting in Beijing with representatives of Sinohydro, noted the priority Kyrgyzstan placed on developing hydroelectric power. Kyrgyz and Chinese officials signed an agreement to research the feasibility of building a series of hydroelectric power stations known as cascade stations on the Suusamyr and Kokomeren rivers.

The stations, if approved, would take about five years to build and could supply 10% of Kyrgyzstan's power capacity, Kyrgyz Energy Minister Askarbek Shadiyev said. Aspects of the project and costs are being negotiated at the moment. It is anticipated that the president of Sinohydro will visit Kyrgyzstan to discuss all questions including financial ones, said the minister, who added that Sinohydro is ready to provide support in raising funds from Chinese Eximbank. It is planned to complete the project's feasibility study and start construction works in the end of 2011.