Detailed article on hydropower in Tajikistan, plus the Cyrillic and Latin vs. Perso-Arabic script for Tajik

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Here it is, from the IHT and the New York Times. It's detailed in the sense of pretty-detailed-for-a-country-you-almost-never-hear-about detailed, but not this-week's-eight-page-feature-on-presidential-candidate detailed, so a total of two pages. Tajikistan is a tiny country (only 50% larger than South Korea) that has pretty much one ace in the hole in its economy: its large supply of water.

For this reason, President Emomali Rakhmon has pinned Tajikistan's economic hopes - and perhaps even its continued political existence - on developing its hydropower potential. Three projects are either under construction or being considered, including Rogun, a gargantuan structure farther up the Vakhsh River that, as it is now envisioned, will surpass Nurek in height by more than 30 meters, or 100 feet. Tajik officials say that they have hopes of building more than 20 hydroelectric plants and dams.

But a number of sizable hurdles must first be surmounted before the plans for a great hydropower future can be realized. Tajikistan is in an earthquake zone and the dams must be built to withstand major seismic shocks. Officials are expected to conduct environmental impact studies to determine whether any flora or fauna will be threatened.

The Tajik government is also heavily in debt and must find shiploads of foreign investment to build the dams. On Wednesday, China agreed to build a $300 million hydroelectric power plant, the Nurobad-2, with a capacity of 160 to 220 megawatts. But Tajik officials say that Rogun alone will cost up to $3.2 billion.
The reason why this is so important is because Tajikistan is weak to the extent that its very existence could be threatened if it doesn't find a source of economic stability soon:
Though for the moment it seems to be managing, Tajikistan threatens to become a failed state, say Western observers and diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue. The country still has not fully recovered from a devastating civil war a decade ago. State coffers are virtually empty, while the government is viewed as unable to meet basic needs.

The situation was laid bare last winter when prolonged subzero temperatures overloaded the Soviet-era electrical grid, plunging the entire country into cold and darkness. For Western officials working in Tajikistan, the emergency was a disturbing revelation of the government's dysfunction.

"The crisis was not caused by the winter weather," said an official of an American nongovernmental organization who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. "The crisis was triggered by the winter weather, but caused by chronic mismanagement."
It's also a bit out of the loop linguistically and culturally from its northern neighbors, who all speak Turkic languages, whereas Tajik (a variant of Persian but written in the Cyrillic script) is mostly the same as Dari (another variant of Persian) in Afghanistan, but Afghanistan is still anything but stable so there's no help there.

It's too bad that Tajikistan is still so poor because Persian is actually quite easy to learn except for the fact that it uses an alphabet that doesn't express short vowels and thus introduces a needless complication in those learning the language (that don't know the Arabic script already and should switch over to the Latin alphabet IMO, but if that doesn't happen the Cyrillic alphabet is the second best choice. Take a look at the Tajik Wikipedia for example:
Астрономия (нуҷум) илм дар бораи коинот ва ҷирмҳои осмонӣ, галактикаҳо ва ҳаракати онҳо мебошад. Ин калима аз ду калимаи юнонӣ: άστρον, "астрон"- ҷирми мунир ва νόμος, "номос" қонун мебошад. Нуҷум ҳама ҷирмҳои осмониро, ҳаракати онҳо ва хосияти онҳоро ҳаматарафа меомӯзад. Нуҷум бо фанҳои физика, биология, химия, математика, ҷуғрофия ва геология алоқаи хеле зич дорад.
And even if you can't read that, since it has all the short vowels written there you can just use an automatic converter (built into their Wikipedia) to switch it over to Latin:
Astronomija (nuçum) ilm dar borai koinot va çirmhoi osmonī, galaktikaho va harakati onho meboşad. In kalima az du kalimai junonī: άστρον, "astron"- çirmi munir va νόμος, "nomos" qonun meboşad. Nuçum hama çirmhoi osmoniro, harakati onho va xosijati onhoro hamatarafa meomūzad. Nuçum bo fanhoi fizika, biologija, ximija, matematika, çuƣrofija va geologija aloqai xele zic dorad.
which is something you can't do with the Perso-Arabic script. With the Arabic script for example the word 'gol' (flower, goal) there is written with just the letters g and l, which could make it either gol (flower, goal) or gel (mud). The word 'va' (and) can also be pronounced 'o' but in Cyrillic there's no way to pronounce it but va.

(Edit: a helpful poster contributed to the above paragraph)

I've read a few stories here and there about Tajikistan possibly going back to the Perso-Arabic script. That would be a tragedy if it happened.


Alijsh said...

The Persian word for both English "in" and "door" is "dar". We have "dor" but it's a literary word with the meaning "pearl".

So, write another word e.g. gl that can be read "gol" (flower; goal [soccer]) or "gel" (mud).

Me said...

Done. Thanks.

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