What's more valuable in Central Asia, natural gas or water? Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan may soon find out. A recent Uzbek move to cut gas supplies has many Kyrgyz worrying about how to stay warm this winter. But experts say the gas cut-off may end up being counterproductive for Tashkent because it will encourage Kyrgyzstan to develop its hydro-power generating capacity. That would be a development which potentially causes a significant reduction in the volume of water flowing into Uzbekistan.
Citing late payments and arrears of $19 million, the state-owned Uztransgaz cut natural gas supplies to southern Kyrgyzstan on September 24. At the same time, Uztransgaz reduced gas delivery to the northern parts of the country by 70 percent. Salamat Aitikeev, the head of Kyrgyzgaz, a government agency in charge of the country's gas sector, told journalists on October 5 that Uzbek authorities would resume gas delivery only after Kyrgyzstan pays off its $19 million debt in its entirety.
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Alisher Khamidov is a freelance journalist based in South Kyrgyzstan.