Leaders break ground on $1 billion Central Asian power line to Pakistan

Tursunzoda, May 12

Leaders of four Asian countries today broke ground on a $1 billion western-backed project to send surplus electricity from ex-Soviet Central Asia to alleviate Pakistan’s chronic energy shortages.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif joined Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in Tajikistan’s city of Tursunzoda to launch construction of the electricity link backed by Washington and the World Bank.

The 1,200-km, 1,300 megawatt electricity link called CASA-1000 is set to connect the four countries by 2018.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia Daniel Rosenblum said at the ceremony that Washington has allocated $15 million to the project.

“This project connects markets of Central and South Asia,” US official said. “All the participating countries win from this project: both the suppliers and consumers of electricity.”

The ‘successful completion of this project will open doors for the completion of other projects in the region’, Rosenblum added.

Tajikistan, a mountainous country that generates almost all its electricity from hydroelectric power and has an energy surplus in summer, is expected to supply more than 75 per cent of the electricity.

Neighbouring Kyrgyzstan will supply the remainder for the electricity line that will end in Peshwar in energy-starved Pakistan’s north.

The overall supply potential of the shared grid has been cast under doubt as ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan battle growing energy deficits, however.

Both countries have failed to attract investment to build two mega-dams that would revamp their ageing national grids and increase the supply potential of CASA-1000.

Pakistan has long suffered chronic energy shortages, while the population of much of Afghanistan lives without stable electricity despite billions of aid dollars spent on energy infrastructure.