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Uzbekistan Struggles with Power

By News Briefing Central Asia

Uzbekistan is a leading producer of natural gas, but many residents are reporting shortages as winter approaches.

The outages have become almost an annual event, made worse by electricity cuts as power stations run short of fuel, and rising coal prices.

Much of the country have been affect. In the Bektemir district of Tashkent region, residents say they have had no gas in their homes since mid-November, as temperatures drop below zero.

Children have not been going to school since it is as cold inside as outside. The mother of one schoolchild said teachers had asked pupils to stay at home as too many were falling ill.

In the eastern Fergana region’s Dangara district, a woman called Adolat said she was so used to the gas going off that she bought in a stock of firewood and “kizyak” – dried animal dung – to heat the house and cook over the winter.

In Jizak, in central Uzbekistan, a student said neither gas nor electricity was available all the time. "The electricity is on from seven to nine [in the morning] and from eight to ten [evening]. The rest of the time we don’t have it.," he said. "Hokimiyat [local government] officials have told us the whole country is experiencing electricity problems because Kazakstan has halted supplies.”

A representative of the state-run oil and gas company dismissed reports of shortages.

"It’s all fairytales. Our country is rich in gas, so how can our people not have any? Our company is supplying it according to schedule,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The people complaining either haven’t paid their bills, or else there have been some technical problems – and that’s highly unlikely as we haven’t recorded any breakdowns."

A resident of the western Navoi region said all his bills were paid and the mains supply in his village was in good order, but there was no gas coming out.

In order to cope, groups of households in the village, located in the Navbahor district, clubbed together and cooked shared meals over open fires to save on firewood and coal.

"People have got used to it. They know it’s going to be a cold winter, so they find ways of staying warm and cooking," he said.

This article was produced as part of News Briefing Central Asia output, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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