Books on Turkmenistan
Update No: 284 - (27/08/04)
Niyazov's desert lake
The Turkmen leader, Saparmurat Niyazov, is at it again. He seems to have a
bottomless pit of batty ideas. His latest wheeze could yet bring about his
downfall, although given the savage scale of repression wielded by the regime,
this is not likely, although if his powerful neighbours in Uzbekistan stir
themselves, this could be his undoing .
The country is to spend $4.5bn, an utterly vast sum in Central Asia, on a huge
reservoir in the Karakum desert that skirts the southern border of Uzbekistan.
Called 'Lake Turkmen of the Golden Age,' it will be 75 miles long, 40 miles wide
and 80 metres deep. It will, according to the Turkmen government, only collect
waste water that would otherwise disappear into the sand.
But many environmental experts are convinced that it will create a devastating
ecological disaster, diverting water from the Amu Darya river, that flows along
the border, one of the two main rivers of Central Asia, and cause a man-made
drought downstream that would afflict the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan in
Uzbekistan. Three million people could be turned into refugees by 2020, when it
is due to be completed. This is an example of 'water war,' such as has long been
predicted as a coming hazard for the world by environmentalists.
The project is closely reminiscent of the diversion of the two rivers that
Uzbekistan engaged in during Soviet times, leading to the drying up of the Aral
Sea, one of the world's worst environmental disasters. The vast irrigation
scheme then at least has a certain madcap logic, namely to water Uzbek cotton
fields. Niyazov's lake has no such rationale. It is but the latest of his vanity
projects that have included littering the capital with statues of himself and
his mother, changing the calendar to eight months of around 45 days duration,
changing their names and obliging all schoolchildren to read and study his
two-volume religious oeuvre that replaces the Koran and the Bible.
"Now he wants to prove that he can master nature by bringing water to the
desert," says Johan Gely, regional water programme manager for the Swiss
development agency in Uzbekistan "There is no justification for this in
terms of economic development or the needs of the Turkmen people. It's just
crazy. The potential for local conflict is huge."
That is precisely where the demented dictator of Ashkhabad may be overreaching
himself. He is giving the Uzbek regime a casus belli. As one distinguished
observer, Oral Ataniyazova, a local deputy and winner of the 2000 Goldman
environmental award for raising awareness about the Aral Sea, puts it:
"This is ecological fascism. You don't need guns to destroy a people. You
can just turn their water off."
Uzbekistan with its 24 million could see off any Turkmen force, one would have
thought, especially if it secured the acquiescence of Kazakstan in redressing
the matter. Turkmenistan has a population of only five million. Its vast empty
deserts would be an easy target for a latter day Tamurlaine, the 14th century
warrior emperor, whose capital was Samarkand in Uzbekistan.
Niyazov does not attend regional summits, obviously scared that he would be
overthrown in his absence. He does not seem to have conceived the idea that his
neighbours might come after him, lurking in his lair! It is still only a remote
possibility of course. Indeed, it is early days yet.
Turkmen fleet gets new Boeing
A new Boeing 717 aircraft has joined the civil aviation fleet of the republic,
the Ashgabat correspondent of Turkmenistan.ru reported recently.
This is the second aircraft by the US producer to be delivered to Turkmenistan
this year. In May 2003 a 64.8m Euro contract on the purchase of two Boeing 717
aircraft, spare parts and special motor equipment was signed. The new aircraft
will function on domestic routes. The US aviation corporation is also to deliver
a VIP class Boeing 767-300 aircraft in the coming months and a contract to this
effect was signed in July 2003.
Centrica eyes Turkmenistan gas supply link
Centrica, the gas and electricity supplier, is considering spending about £300m
in a scheme to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan to Britain, as part of an
effort to ensure the country has enough suppliers of the fuel as North Sea
production dwindles, the Financial Times reported on August 16th.
Centrica could deliver the gas to British Gas customers through participation in
a Russian/Ukraine project to bring the fuel from fields in Turkmenistan in
central Asia to western Europe.
Centrica said it did not want to comment on plans - believed to be at an early
stage - to join the RosUkrEnergo joint venture. But it said the company was
looking at a number of potential projects to bring more gas to Britain from
parts of the world such as North Africa and the former Soviet Union.
Assuming the plan reaches fruition, Centrica would take a stake of about 10% in
the joint venture. It intends to spend up to £3bn to extract gas from central
Asia and pipe it through the Ukraine to reach western European consumers and
Existing partners in the venture - due to start up in January 2005 - are Russian
gas company Gazprom, Naftogaz, a Ukrainian gas supplier and Raiffeisenbank, and
During the next five years Centrica plans to spend up to £5bn on new pipelines
and other installations to boost its ability to supply electricity and gas to
its customers in the UK and elsewhere.
The need for this is becoming greater as supplies from the North Sea dwindle at
a higher pace than many predicted a few years ago.
Centrica plans to use some of the money it gained from its recent £1.75bn sale
of the AA motoring organisation on the new investments.
Dragon Oil completes 3rd well drilling in Jeytun
British-Arabian Dragon oil said that as a result of drilling the well in Jeytun,
it is producing oil amounting to 1,843 barrels per day at a depth of 2,470 to
2,917m, Turkmenistan.ru website reported.
The well was drilled to a depth of 3,222m where it had encountered a gas
reservoir. A total of four development wells are expected to be drilled in the
field from Jeytun-21 platform using Astra jack-up rig leased from LUKoil-offshore
Dragon Oil is developing two offshore fields in the Turkmen sector of the
Caspian Sea, Jeytun (former LAM) and Jigalibek (former Zhdanova), in the
Cheleken contract area. A production-sharing agreement was signed with the
Turkmen government in November 1999. According to the state enterprise on the
Caspian Sea under the president of Turkmenistan, oil production in the
contracted area totalled 630,000 tonnes in 2003, a 30% increase on the same
period in 2002.
New tractors in Turkmenistan
Gibraltar-based IP Consult International Ltd will deliver 100 Case MX-210
tractors for €9.3m and 200 Kverneland LD-400-100M ploughs for €2.9m to
Turkmenistan by November 15th, 2004. Apart from this, the company will deliver
500 DE-3.6 grain sowing-machines worth €3.0m along with spare parts and
miscellaneous parts worth €2.6m in several stages by November 30th, 2004.
Another Gibraltar-based company, AGTECH LTD, the official distributor for Deer
and Co, will deliver 100 John Deer-7720 tractors amounting to €8.7m, the
Ashgabat correspondent of Turkmenistan.ru recently reported.
According to a decree signed by Turkmen president Saparmurat Niyazov, all the
equipment is to be delivered to the Association of joint-stock companies on
industrial and technical support of agriculture, Turkmenobakhyzmat.
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