When Bibiradja Ochildieva, a resident of Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, stepped into her backyard to collect her laundry one day recently, she was horrified to find her family’s clothing covered in black soot. “It was like there had been a fire,” she recounts.
Ochildieva, 51, and many of her neighbors in Dushanbe’s central Botanicheskiy neighborhood recall feeling excited when they first heard in 2012 that authorities intended to construct a new heating and power plant in the area. The assumption back then was that the coal-fired plant would put an end to Tajikistan's systemic energy crisis; they never contemplated that in trying to solve one problem, officials might be creating another.
At the opening ceremony on January 10, President Imomali Rakhmon assured that the plant, officially called Heating Power Plant Dushanbe-2, would operate in a clean and efficient manner, using the latest technologies and filters to reduce emissions by “99.8 percent.” In practice, however, the plant belches out a disconcertingly high amount of coal dust across the neighborhood.
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Asel Kalybekova is a reporter based in Kyrgyzstan.