Uzbekistan: Andijan Residents Freezing, Scavenging for Firewood
Chronic shortages of gas for heating their homes and cooking meals have forced the residents of Andijan to hunt for firewood, uznews.net has reported.
With the cold winter and frequent power outages, people are even cutting down trees in a cemetery, says the news portal.
Uznews.net has regularly highlighted gas and electricity shortages in Uzbekistan this season. In a January 13 report, exiled Uzbek analyst Tashpulat Yuldashev writes that service interruptions have been become common for entire districts and cities. Lines have grown long at gasoline pumps due to shortages and some factories have halted production without diesel fuel or coal.
Uzbeks in the provinces have been scavenging everything they can find to use for fuel -- twigs, cotton stalks, dung, and lignite, says Yuldashev. The energy shortages have led to conflicts between angry customers and besieged authorities and even to attacks on utility workers. Some persistent protesters, fed up with shortages, debts and fines, have been jailed for short terms.
In response, authorities have reportedly arrested dozens of managers and punished engineers and inspectors in power companies for fraud. The energy shortages expose the invalidity of the government's claims to be over-fulfilling its energy plans.
Yuldashev says Uzbekistan’s state power companies suffer a host of problems from aging, inefficient infrastructure to poor management, which seemed to have worsened when Uzbekistan pulled out of Central Asia's Unified Energy System in 2009.
One November uznews.net report speculated that Tashkent was trying to save electricity to sell abroad in exchange for hard currency, noting that regular power cuts -- two hours at a time, at least twice a week -- began in the residential buildings of Tashkent in January 2011.