Angren-Pap rail line gives Tashkent ammunition in Tajik ‘water wars’

Construction of the new $1.9bn Angren-Pap electrified railway line connecting Uzkbekistan’s territories in the  Fergana Valley with the capital Tashkent has been completed, it was announced this week. The new line means that freight and passengers being moving to and from the valley no longer need to pass through Tajikistan’s Sughd province, in a development that some analysts believe spells further trouble for relations between the two countries.
According to RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier,  the new line removes one of the few aspects of Uzbek-Tajik relations that really required some level of cooperation between the two governments since Uzbekistan needed the old line through Tajikistan to ship goods. Without this small bargaining chip, Dushanbe has no leverage to oblige Tashkent to allow trains to reach Tajikistan – and all trains to or from Tajikistan must pass through Uzbekistan’s territory.
The new status quo could further sour relations over Tajikistan’s  controversial plans to build hydropower plants, particularly the Rogun Dam  across the Amu Darya subsidiary of the Vakhsh River. Uzbekistan strenuously opposes the project as it relies on the waters from the river to irrigate its cotton fields (the cotton industry still accounts for 25% of Uzbekistan’s GDP). In the past, Uzbek customs officials have turned back trains carrying construction materials they believed were intended to be used in the project.