Technological progress and the rapid development of the world economy are sources of global environmental challenges. Currently, humanity faces the most acute problems associated with climate change, lack of drinking water, depletion of biodiversity, soil and ocean pollution.
The solution of modern environmental problems is possible only under the condition of close international interaction and cooperation at various levels. Azerbaijan is a party to the main multilateral environmental agreements (Conventions) in the field of environmental protection and fulfills its obligations. However, in the implementation of international agreements in the field of environmental protection, regional cooperation plays a decisive role, as well as close interaction on transboundary issues, since nature does not recognize state borders.
The aggressive policy pursued by Armenia causes direct damage to the environment of Azerbaijan, the country's biological diversity and the overall ecological situation in the region.
It is well known that as a result of the occupation of our lands by Armenia, natural resources are being mercilessly exploited, forests are being destroyed, transboundary rivers are being polluted, and irreparable damage is inflicted on the flora and fauna of the region.
Water bodies located in the occupied territories are also a source of potential ecological disaster. Due to the lack of maintenance of the Sarsang reservoir, which is located in the occupied territory, more than 400,000 people living in low-lying areas are in constant danger. Any natural disaster can lead to the collapse of the dam, and as a result humanitarian and environmental disaster.
In winter, water is discharged from the reservoir without taking into account the seasonal needs of the region, as a result of which settlements, agricultural lands and communication lines are flooded. The opposite situation is observed in hot weather - much less water is released in comparison with the annual rate, which creates an acute shortage of it and problems with irrigation.
The fact of the occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan by Armenia creates difficulties in fulfilling the obligations of our country under international conventions. Azerbaijan is a party to the Helsinki Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention).
The convention’s main mission is to protect and use transboundary watercourses and international lakes. An effective solution to these problems can only be ensured through close cooperation. Armenia's non-alignment to this Convention and its aggressive policy make it impossible to solve the problems of transboundary waters within the framework of international norms.
It is worth noting the importance and results of active work on bringing to the international community the facts of Armenia's destructive activities in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. In 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted Resolution No. 2085 on the deliberate deprivation of water from residents of Azerbaijan's border regions. The assembly considers unhindered access to drinking water, which cannot be limited by the presence of borders, as a fundamental right, a source of life that is of strategic importance for every state.
This resolution requires the immediate withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the region and the conduct of field studies by independent engineers and hydrologists.
One of the most serious threats to the environment of the region and the health of the population is also the activity of the Metsamor nuclear power plant, which has been operating in Armenia since 1976 using outdated technologies. It should be noted that after the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Metsamor nuclear power plant was closed, but in 1995 the plant resumed its work, despite calls and harsh criticism of the international community.
At present, the Metsamor NPP, while increasing its capacity, operates without observing the relevant safety standards. At the end of 2009, the Armenian government made a decision to build a new NPP unit. It should be also noted that Armenia does not provide adequate access for international organizations to information on the technical safety and activities of the NPP. The lack of data related to the management and disposal of the plant’s waste remains a serious threat to nuclear safety in the region, especially in the context of the occupation of Azerbaijani territories. It is highly probable that the waste of the NPP is buried in the occupied territories and this process continues.
Azerbaijan and Armenia are also parties to the UN Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context - the Espoo Convention. According to the convention, the procedure for assessing the environmental impact (including public discussions) of potentially hazardous projects should be carried out not only within the state, but also in neighboring countries that may be affected by the impact of these objects. In accordance with the Convention, the assessment procedure should be carried out at an early stage of planning.
Given the complete lack of information about the projects planned by Armenia that pose a potential threat to Azerbaijan and the region as a whole, on May 5, 2011, the Azerbaijani side initiated consideration of the case related to the activities of the Metsamor NPP within the Espoo Convention. After lengthy proceedings, Executive Committee of the convention issued a conclusion on the failure of the Armenian side to comply with its provisions.
Azerbaijan also takes an active position in the fight against climate change and its consequences. According to a special document on the contributions of countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, submitted by our country to the Secretariat of the UN Climate Change Convention, Azerbaijan plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 35 percent as of 2030. This document also reflects the fact of the occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia, as the main barrier to achieving the goals set by Azerbaijan under the convention.
Azerbaijan strongly calls on international organizations to take appropriate measures in relation to the occupying country to immediately stop destructive activities in the occupied territories.
Emin Garabaghli, Head of Division for International Cooperation at Azerbaijan's Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry.
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz