Environmental issues in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan was formerly a part of the Soviet Union but proclaimed its independence, before the disintegration of the USSR.

Azerbaijan is rich in mineral resources, mainly oil and natural gas but also in iron ore, nonferrous metals, bauxite. The country also has agricultural land and a well-educated labour force with a strong entrepreneurial tradition. Despite the country’s natural resources, poverty continues to pose a major challenge for Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan shares all the problems of the former Soviet republics in making the transition from a command to a market economy, but its considerable energy resources brighten its long-term prospects. Several other obstacles slow down Azerbaijan’s economic progress: the need for stepped up foreign investment in the non-energy sector, the continuing conflict with Armenia, pervasive corruption, and elevated inflation. Trade with Russia and the other former Soviet republics is declining, while trade is building with Turkey and the nations of Europe. Long-term prospects will depend on world oil prices, the location of new oil and gas pipelines in the region, and Azerbaijan’s ability to manage its energy wealth.

Azerbaijan is a country rich in oil and gas reserves. These reserves have been responsible for the industrial development. However, this has also let to severe pollution from heavy industries and agriculture. The contamination of the Caspian Sea from oil drilling in Baku has always been a problem and petroleum waste was routinely dumped into the Caspian Sea. The Caspian also suffers from the discharge of untreated sewage and pollution has depleted the sea’s stocks of fish and has had a detrimental effect on the marine life.

Azerbaijan is badly affected by Air Pollution. The Petro-chemical plants, oil refineries and factories, oil refineries, the venting of natural gas from oil wells; burning of untreated garbage; and exhausts from engines have resulted in massive levels of air pollution. This has resulted in several health hazards for the Azerbaijan population.

Polluted Drinking Water is another issue. The ground water has been polluted by oil spillage and leakage from pipelines and storage tanks, heavy usage of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture, factory wastes dumped into rivers, obsolete and broken equipment in water treatment plants. In some cases, even high levels of radiation have been detected. Due to this, there is high incidence of water borne diseases like hepatitis, cholera etc.

Burning of garbage in large dumps outside the major cities and inadequate and old equipments to treat liquid wastes have also resulted in health hazards.

Large scale genetic mutation is one of the most serious consequences of this pollution.  Children are born prematurely or evidence severe genetic mutation that cannot be corrected which, in turn, causes irreversible consequences to child, family and society.

Azerbaijan has the reputation of being an environmental disaster zone. Many scientists consider Apsheron Peninsula, where 50% of Azerbaijanis live, to be the most ecologically devastated area in the world because of severe air, water and soil pollution.

The Government is motivated and is making efforts to improve the environmental situation in the country. However, the measures and policy are more declarative than practical in most case ineffective because of lack of financial allocations, low capacity of staff and institutions, poor technology, low educational and awareness-raising level of the general population.