By Ayya Lmahamad
With a peace deal now in place and restoration of territorial integrity, Azerbaijan has shifted its focus to the future.
After Azerbaijan's victory in the Second Karabakh War and liberation of its territories, hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis displaced from there in the early 990s have hope to finally return home. However, it is a long road due to mines, lack of housing, and infrastructure.
Rebuilding communities, restoring prosperity, and preserving the region's rich cultural heritage is the cornerstone of the country's current policy.
Nowadays, the process of restoration of Azerbaijani territories liberated from the Armenian occupation is proceeding at a rapid pace.
The restoration of these territories means building the infrastructure of a modern state and its economy from scratch: demining the territory, the restoration of transport infrastructure, the construction of houses and industrial buildings, etc.
As a result of Armenian aggression and occupation of Azerbaijani lands for almost three decades, all cities, including hundreds of settlements, houses, public and private property, numerous infrastructure facilities were completely destroyed. Everything on these territories was destroyed not during the war, but during the occupation period.
Speaking about the scale of destructions on Azerbaijani liberated territories, President Ilham Aliyev said in an interview with Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of Russia's influential Natsionalnaya Oborona (National Defence) magazine, that “we will have to build, equip an area equal to the territory of a country that is not the smallest in the world – Lebanon”.
Azerbaijan started to restore and rehabilitate its lands immediately after the end of hostilities.
The main source of funds for the reconstruction is the national budget. The Azerbaijani government has allocated $1.3bn for the reconstruction of the liberated territories in 2021. In particular, these funds will be used to restore the infrastructure (electricity, gas, water, communications, roads, education, health, etc), as well as cultural and historical monuments.
Within the large-scale reconstruction, the liberated lands are planned to be supplied with power by late 2021. In this context, Azerishig is providing power lines to government buildings in the newly-liberated territories in line with the presidential decree and the project “Azerishig in Karabakh”.
The roads are being built in all directions - the Victory Road to Shusha, the second highway Fuzuli-Shusha, roads to the Armenian border at Zangilan, Gubadli, tunnels from Goygol to Kalbajar, the road from Fuzuli to Aghdam, from Fuzuli to Hadrut, to Jabyaril.
The 101-km-long Victory Road, which extends from the Hajigabul-Minjivan-Zangazur corridor to Shusha, is being constructed under Karabakh's development plan and will be ready for commissioning soon. The Victory Road commemorates the path which was used by the Azerbaijani armed forces for liberating the territories from Armenian occupation in the 2020 Second Karabakh War.
Smart city concept
Earlier, President Aliyev stated that by reconstructing generating capacities and power transmission lines, Karabakh will turn into a "green energy" zone.
On May 3, the president signed a decree on measures to create a "green energy" zone in the country’s liberated territories.
Under the decree, an amount of $1.3 million shall be allocated from the Presidential Reserve Fund envisaged in the 2021 state budget to attract a specialized international consulting company to develop an appropriate concept and master plan on the creation of a "green energy" zone on Azerbaijan's liberated territories.
In line with this, in June, the country’s Energy Ministry and BP signed an Implementation Agreement to build a 240MW solar power plant in liberated Zangilan and Jabrayil regions. The new agreement with BP will help create a “green energy” zone in Azerbaijan’s liberated territories.
Azerbaijan has already presented the first pilot project of a “smart village” to be created in the liberated territories, as part of the 2020-2022 National Action Plan. Thus, the first project covers Zangilan’s Aghali I, II, III villages. The project will be implemented mainly on five components - housing sector, production sector, social services, smart agriculture and alternative energy.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the airport’s construction took place back on 14 January. The first Karabakh aircraft of Azerbaijan Airlines landed at the newly-built Fuzuli International Airport on September 5.
The construction of international airports in Lachin and Zangilan regions is also continuing under the presidential order.
The restoration process of infrastructure and business entities is also underway. Shops, bakeries, dental offices are already operating there. In addition, ATMs of different banks have been installed.
In early May, President Aliyev laid the foundation stone of a new mosque and a school in Shusha and also inaugurated 110/35/10 kV Shusha substation, the newly-renovated Khari Bulbul hotel and a 48-apartment block and the cottages under the hotel.
President Aliyev said in the interview with Korotchenko that IDPs will be able to return to liberated Shusha and Zangilan in 2021-22. He stated that a new housing complex for 25 houses will be built within a year, a maximum of one and a half years, and it will be possible already to return people to Shusha. Aliyev added that first people will move into Zangilan 2022, perhaps even by the end of 2021.
He also noted that master plans for Aghdam and Shusha cities had been approved, and Aghdam had already started to be restored.
The minefields remain the biggest problem during the restoration. The mine maps that Armenia had submitted to Azerbaijan are reliable for about 25 percent.
However, the rapid reconstruction of liberated lands, the planning and implementation of important infrastructure projects there give grounds to say that these lands will soon revive and prosper.
Ayya Lmahamad is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @AyyaLmahamad
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