Uzbek dam failure raises concern about corruption
An investigation into the causes is taking a long time to report
When a dam burst in Uzbekistan in May, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the president, was quick to promise justice for the victims. Those responsible for the disaster, which killed six people and displaced over 100,000, would answer before the law “regardless of who they are”, he pledged. On social media, ordinary Uzbeks aired their suspicions that negligence or corruption must have contributed to the collapse, since the Sardoba dam had only been completed three years before. The structure should surely have been built to withstand the storms that officials initially blamed for the tragedy, they argued. Days after the devastating flood—which washed away crops as well as homes in both Uzbekistan and neighbouring Kazakhstan, causing over $1bn of damage—the president formed a task force to investigate. He gave it a month to report back.
Three months on, the report has still not arrived—and the task force now says it will take another five months to complete. But its preliminary findings do seem to bear out ordinary Uzbeks’ fears: nine people, including government officials and employees of firms that helped build the dam, have been arrested and face charges of embezzlement, fraud, negligence and violation of health-and-safety rules.