Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Tajiks Face Winter Power Shortages

In the first of IWPR's radio programmes for Tajikistan, we look at the impact of power cuts on daily life, and the controversial subject of arranged marriages and divorce.
In the first feature in this show, reporter Rustam Firdausi investigates why Tajikistan – a major producer of hydroelectricity – suffers chronic shortages of power, especially in the winter months.

The authorities are promising that the kind of power cuts experienced during last year’s exceptionally cold season will not be repeated, but some people are already living with blackouts.

The state power company Barq-i Tojik blames low levels in the reservoirs that drive hydroelectric power stations.

In the southern region of Kulob, residents are stripping forests of wood to burn because the electricity supply is so restricted.

“The forest rangers catch us and fine us, but we don’t have any other option,” said local man Said Olimov.

Officially, residents of Kulob get six hours of electricity a day, although one interviewee said her house had power only for two hours in the morning and two in the evening – and not at all whenever it was rainy or windy .

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Urban Tajiks Buy Generators to Get Through Winter

Turning from rural to urban areas, journalist Bek Rahmoni looks at the impact of power cuts there, and the reasons why Tajikistan is so consistently short of electricity.

In the towns, the price of diesel generators is rocketing as consumers make provision for winter power cuts.

Analysts say much of the electricity generated is “lost” due to leakage before it leaves Tajikistan’s antiquated power stations and enters the national grid, and that the country lacks the specialised experts who could make the system more efficient. In theory, Tajikistan should be able to produce enough electricity to keep the power on even when reservoir levels are low.

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Arranged Marriages Lead to Divorce

In the final piece in the radio package, Safarali Mirzoev investigates the increase in divorce among young people, often a result of early marriages arranged by their parents.

Some experts say young people are simply unprepared for marriage. Brides find it hard to adjust to living with the groom's family.

Other commentators say arranged marriages, where the couple never even see one another before the wedding, are doomed to failure.

Abdusamad Hairatov, who heads the Khatlon regional branch of the Islamic Rebirth Party in southern Tajikistan, says parents should never impose marriage on their children.

“No society and no religion places a ban on young man and woman meeting before the wedding and getting to know each other,” he said.

In Kulob, there are concerns that some young women are being driven to suicide after finding themselves trapped in unhappy marriages.

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