Tajikistan's domestic energy supply situation is dominated by hydroelectric power. The nation is an importer of petroleum-based fuels, of which only small domestic deposits are being exploited. Insufficient access to imported oil and natural gas, a persistent problem under the Soviet system, became more acute after 1991.
The Soviet central government, which determined energy policy for Tajikistan, saw the republic's rivers as prime locations for hydroelectric dams. However, Tajikistanis raised serious objections to the resettlement of villages, the potential for flooding if an earthquake damaged a dam, and the prospect of pollution from the factories that would be attracted by cheap electrical power. Although damming the rivers would increase the supply of water for irrigation, the central government targeted much of the water for neighboring Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan rather than for domestic use. Resistance was especially strong in the case of the Roghun Dam on the Vakhsh River, initiated in 1976 as the largest dam of its kind in Central Asia. By 1992 some 75 percent of the country's electricity came from hydroelectric plants, and in the mid-1990s Russia provided aid for the construction of a new Roghun hydroelectric station.
Deposits of coal, petroleum, and natural gas are known to exist but by the mid-1990s had yet to be developed. In the Soviet era, the unreliability of fuel sources in other republics resulted in frequent power shortages. Fuel supply problems mounted during the transition to a post-Soviet economy, as oil-exporting former Soviet republics often chose not to abide by the delivery agreements upon which Tajikistan had depended. Furthermore, beginning in 1993, independent Tajikistan's mounting economic problems left it unable to pay more than a small fraction of the cost of importing energy. Energy providers, especially Uzbekistan, responded with periodic interruptions of deliveries. Irregular delivery disrupted industrial production, crop harvests, and the flow of electricity to residential consumers.
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