October 3, 2008

Water, Electricity Shortages Threaten Kazakhstan’s Commercial Capital – Paper

Kazakhstan's commercial capital, Almaty, may face water and electricity shortages in the coming winter because of a sharp drop of water level in the Ili river, said a report in the Megapolis newspaper. The river, which originates in western China and ensures the work of the Almaty region's main power station, is gone so shallow that is currently passable on foot, the report carried on 29 September said. The water level has fallen because of the last severely cold winter and this year's dry summer, it said. The following is the text of the report by Irina Chernyshova entitled "Without electricity and water"; subheadings inserted editorially:

A real energy collapse is threatening to hit Almaty this winter

the city might be left not only without drinking water but also without electricity. The decrease of the level of water in the Ili river and the Kapchagay reservoir has already affected capacity of the Kapchagay power station.

Ili is the largest river in Semirechie [southern Almaty Region], its length is 1,439 kilometres. The river starts in China and in Almaty Region it forms the artificial Kapchagay reservoir and flows into the lake of Balkhash. It's maximum width is 22 km and depth 45 m. It feeds the Kapchagay power station that provides with electricity Almaty and Taldykorgan and Almaty Region. On Kazakh territory Ili runs for hundreds of kilometres irrigating huge agricultural fields and feeding with energy hydroelectric stations. Its water is as precious as gold for the region. But a threat has emerged now that we will be deprived of both water and electric power.

One-fifth of country's population affected

The decrease of the Ili level has been observed since May. But in the past two weeks the level fell so much that one can cross the river on foot, the water does not reach even one's waist. The level of water in the Kapchagay reservoir has fallen by 1.8 m and is continuing to drop by 3 centimetres a day. This has already affected the capacity of the Kapchagay power station. In September the Almaty Power Stations company reduced power supplies because the amount of water passing through the Kapchagay power station dropped from 450 cu.m. to 200 cu.m. (power generation dropping from 140 MW to 58 MW). The company predicts that in the autumn-winter period the Kapchagay power station will be generating from 30 to 60 MW less electricity than planned. At the same time, because of dry season energy supplies from the Zhambyl power station and across Central Asia have decreased. Electricity supplies from the north are limited because of the limited capacity of the North-South [power transmission] line. In order to maintain some level of water for energy needs we will have to limit the amount of water going into Balkhash. But then hundreds of farms that depend on Ili will be left without water. One fifth of the country's population lives in the river's basin that spreads over four regions of southern and eastern Kazakhstan. The energy system of southeastern Kazakhstan and Almaty depends on the level of water in Ili. It's the main water artery of the Balkhash- Alakol lowland and it defines the level of water in the lake Balkhash. Water from the lake is used for technological processes by Kazakhstan's major copper enterprises. Also, this water is used for farming, fishing and so on.

Development in western China is a future threat to Ili

According to unofficial information, the fall of the water level in Ili is connected to a "Chinese factor." Water consumption has been increasing in the upper Ili area on Chinese territory due to intensive development there - construction of major hydro- engineering facilities for irrigation and power generation - as China's [northwestern] Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is becoming a regional trade and economic centre of Central Asia. China is panning to take up, according to various data, from 0.5-1 to 7.4 cubic kilometres of water at the Yamate [transliterated] hydrological station, the point where Ili merges with Kash [transliterated]. In near future the intake of water by China will grow, Kazakh experts say. The reason is China's plans to considerably increase oil production at Xinjiang's Karamay oil field. This may have a number of negative consequences for Kazakhstan, both of social and economic and environmental nature. However experts say that China has nothing to do with the current drop of water level in Ili.

The dropping of the Ili and Kapchagay levels is caused only by one thing - last winter was harsh and the past summer was dry, 1.5 degrees [Celsius] above the norm and with little precipitation. Even in China the flow of water is 40 per cent below the norm, said Anara Tleulesova, the head of the Balkhash-Alakol water regulating and researching inspection of the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture.

Authorities pledge to ensure uninterrupted power supply

As is known, Almaty Region is the country's one of the worst supplied with its own electricity. Own power stations in Almaty and Almaty Region at present generate less than 50 per cent of the region's needs. AlmatyEnergoSbyt [Almaty power sales] covers the shortage with supplies from the north 16.1 per cent, from the [southern] Zhambyl power station 28.6 per cent and imports from Central Asia 7.7 per cent.

The AlmatyEnergoSbyt press office said that currently on some days energy deficit in Almaty Region reaches from 10 to 30 MW. It is covered with supplies from the Zhambyl power station (depending on technical possibility). Thus, at present Almaty Region is really experiencing electricity shortage.

Even though there are contracts to supply electrical power from outside sources, it is hard to forecast what will happen in winter. It depends on how consumption is going to increase due to weather conditions and what amounts of electricity outside suppliers will be able to provide, the press office said. They promised that by winter the TETs-2 [thermal power station] and TETs-3 which are currently under repairs ahead of a cold season would resume to work at full capacity.

In its turn, AlmatyEnergoSbyt is taking all possible measures to avoid regular power cuts in the coming winter.

AlmatyEnergoSbyt believes that in the given situation one of the solutions is to save electricity through its sparing and rational use: by switching off electronic devices when not in use, turning off light in empty premises and using energy-saving devices, especially at hours when consumption is at its peak.

Originally published by Megapolis, Almaty, in Russian 29 Sep 08p4.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Central Asia. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.