One other Chilly, Darkish Winter That Central Asia Will Not Overlook


TASHKENT/DUSHANBE — “Will you flip it on, or not?” requested a lady within the Uzbek city of Chirchik, as she grabbed a grid electrician from behind and held a kitchen knife to his neck in an trade captured on digicam.

“If you’ll minimize me, minimize me,” responded the electrician, after power-starved residents descended on firm premises for a management room showdown.

The incident in Chirchik, an hour exterior the capital, Tashkent, that led to the 35-year-old lady’s arrest speaks to the desperation that has set in as elements of Central Asia clocked up their coldest chilly snap in 15 years, triggering electrical energy, water, and heating failures.

Whereas frontline employees have borne the brunt of the frustration, fingers are additionally being pointed at officers increased up the meals chain, whose tendency is to hope for the very best as an alternative of planning for the worst when winter comes round.

Energy outages are nothing new for many of the area’s inhabitants –villages throughout a lot of Central Asia lack electrical energy for all or many of the day through the coldest months.

When temperatures plunge, rural residents need to burn extra coal, or, if they can not afford it, dried dung. Residents of bigger Central Asian cities are typically spared the worst of systemic power shortages.

This winter has been totally different, with residents of condominium blocks in Tashkent spending days with out energy, heating, and water, and residents of the Tajik capital Dushanbe additionally struggling badly.

“That is the primary time they’ve utterly failed within the capital,” stated Temur Umarov, a fellow on the Carnegie Endowment for Worldwide Peace on Uzbekistan’s power disaster.

“That’s essential as a result of residents of the capitals have the closest connection to enterprise and political elites. So it’s exactly within the capitals the place the picture of those governments is being broken,” Umarov stated.

Temperatures have plummeted in Uzbekistan and different Central Asian nations prior to now 10 days to beneath minus 30 levels Celsius in some places. Tashkent and Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, have often seen temperatures of minus 20 levels or beneath throughout that interval.

Huge Shortages

For a lot of sufficiently old to recollect, this winter has been an unwelcome flashback to the winter of 2007-08, an occasion that also evokes shudders from those that skilled it.

Seemingly, no person thought it might occur once more.

However large shortages in Uzbekistan’s fuel provide grew to become evident as early as November 2022, when the climate was additionally unseasonably chilly, forcing the federal government to close down fuel filling stations and ship gas-powered industrial belongings into hibernation.

The Tajik capital, Dushanbe, has additionally struggled to cope with the chilly snap.

The shortages sophisticated life for a Dushanbe heating plant that has used fuel from Uzbekistan to energy its operations in recent times. Tajikistan’s grids have hardly ever benefited from an abundance of provide. Now the nation is exporting electrical energy to Uzbekistan’s southern Surkhandarya area the place shortages have been particularly acute.

Saidmurod Murodov, a resident of 1 Dushanbe condominium block, complained that his condominium constructing has had heating issues for the final three or 4 years.

“We have now youngsters at dwelling, everyone seems to be sick. We known as the heating community, and in response they stated that it could be getting just a little hotter quickly, and so the buildings can be hotter,” Murodov informed RFE/RL’s Tajik service.

“Why ought to we look forward to it to be hotter exterior to have warmth within the buildings? If we have to, we are going to gather the signatures of two,000-3,000 and enchantment to the president.”

A consultant of Dushanbe’s municipal water division in the meantime insisted that preparations for the winter season had been thorough.

“No person might anticipate that robust frosts would hit unexpectedly,” stated the consultant Mehrodjiddin Boborahimov in response to questions on pipes that had frozen, choking the water provide.

A Highly effective Mayor Pays The Value

In Tashkent, Central Asia’s largest metropolis with round 3 million individuals, residents have been seen cooking meals on open fires on the road, echoing scenes from early December 2002 within the metropolis of Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan, the place an influence plant went offline for the very best a part of every week.

Greater than a fifth of town’s neighborhoods have skilled prolonged shortages of electrical energy and energy, in accordance with officers.

The Nationwide Guard and the military have been put into motion within the final week, serving to to arrange heated tents the place individuals can heat themselves and drink tea.

Jahongir Ortikhojaev, who has just been fired as Tashkent's mayor

Jahongir Ortikhojaev, who has simply been fired as Tashkent’s mayor

Erstwhile Tashkent Mayor Jahongir Ortikhojaev’s try to get in on the act by providing out free bowls of pilaf proved too little too late, nonetheless.

On January 16, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev stated that he had fired Ortikhojaev and several other top-level power officers together with Deputy Power Minister Sherzod Khodjaev over their failure to arrange town for the winter.

Mirziyoev branded Ortikhojaev as “shameless” and accused him of “empty phrases.”

Ortikhojaev’s fall from grace is all of the extra placing since he has been one of the vital distinguished politicians of Mirziyoev’s reign, which started in 2016 after the demise of the nation’s first chief, Islam Karimov.

A rich businessman with little expertise in politics, Ortikhojaev’s appointment again in 2018 was hailed by the president as investment-friendly.

Mirziyoev caught by Ortikhojaev by way of scandals over property developments, which noticed buildings within the metropolis’s historic neighborhoods demolished, and a dispute through which Ortikhojaev appeared to threaten two journalists.

Nikita Makarenko, a widely known Tashkent blogger, argued in an interview with RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service that the constructing spree throughout Ortikhojaev’s tenure had performed a job in Tashkent’s power collapse, as a result of “the infrastructure couldn’t help [the new developments].”

Tashkent’s tough winter was “the final straw” ending his mayoral reign, Makarenko stated.

One other Tashkent-based journalist, Aleksei Volosevich, argued that the transfer was to move off a “protest temper,” which has emerged on the again of the shortages.

“He is the correct hand of Mirziyoev,” Volosevich stated of Ortikhodjaev. “That claims one thing. There’s a lot displeasure now that he had to try this.”

Unsung Heroes

If Ortikhodjaev and different officers are being held up because the villains of the regional chilly snap, then its unsung heroes are individuals like Gulrukhsor Boeva, an orange-vested streetcleaner who works for Dushanbe’s municipality.

Incomes round $120 per 30 days her day begins within the earlier hours of the morning after a commute from Vahdat, a city exterior the capital, the place she lives together with her youngsters and husband, a former migrant employee in Russia who’s at present unemployed.

“After all it’s onerous, however what’s to be carried out?” Boeva stated as she took a break from batting snow down from roadside timber and shoveling it off town’s sidewalks. “I’m grateful for this work.”

Though the climate throughout the area has already begun to heat, sub-zero temperatures are anticipated to proceed into subsequent week.

The grid operator for Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, on January 19 confirmed that elements of town would see scheduled blackouts within the coming days to spare grid gear from burning out amid rising consumption.

Turkmenistan, Central Asia’s most closed nation and the holder of the world’s fourth-largest fuel reserves, has additionally seen large disruptions in its provides of the gasoline because of the chilly, inflicting energy outages.

Though the federal government has not formally acknowledged the issue, RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service acquired reviews this week that personal bakeries have been among the many buildings minimize off as officers scrambled to enhance the availability.

Written by Chris Rickleton with reporting from RFE/RL’s Uzbek, Tajik, Kyrgyz, and Turkmen companies

Supply hyperlink