Danger of mudflows escalates in Azerbaijan regions

15 September 2015 15:00 (UTC+04:00)

By Nigar Orujova

Azerbaijan overcame another dry and hot summer, but its consequences are yet to come.

Destructive mudflows have become traditional disaster for the population of the foothill areas of Azerbaijan. Muddy floodwaters cover settlements, destroying infrastructure, taking cattle, and causing irreparable damage to farmland, every year since the arrival of autumn.

“Dry and hot summers can lead to mudslides in potentially dangerous areas of Azerbaijan,” said Elbrus Alizadeh, a deputy director of the Institute of Geography of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mudslides have been observed ahead of autumn in some rivers of the southern slope of the Greater Caucasus, caused by the heavy rains that followed a hot summer, he added.

“A dry summer is traditionally leads to the activation of the mudflow process,” the scientist explained. “Long scorching days with minimal rainfall destroys the rock. As a result, a large quantity of material is gathered for drift, leading to destructive mudflows with the arrival of the season of heavy rains.”

The characteristic conditions for mudflows have developed this summer in Beylagan, Zagatala and Sheki region. The expert is convinced that the hot summer saturated mudflow sites, and are ready collapse with the first heavy rain. However, they do not represent a great threat, he added.

This summer, the danger of mudslides comes more so on the southern slopes of the Greater Caucasus to the population of Gakh, Sheki, Oguz and Gabala regions. The northeastern slopes of the Greater Caucasus are also not dormant.

Rivers Dzegamchay, Shamkirchay, Ganjachay, Kurekchay are not cleared of sediment and can easily overflow after the first heavy rain, Alizadeh said. He also referred to the foothill villages of Tovuz, Shamkir, Goygol and Goranboy regions as a threat zone.

A huge amount of material has already been collected for the demolition, which means the conditions are created for mudflow pending heavy rains in the mountains, thus the activation of the mudflows is imminent.

“This summer the development of mud flows in Azerbaijan is observed especially in the highlands and middle areas of the southern slope of the Greater Caucasus in the basins of Kumukhchay, Shinchay, Kishchay, Dashgylchay, as well as in the highlands and middle areas of river basins Demiraparanchay and Girdimanchay,” the scientist said. “These problems are largely connected to the intensive development of mountainous areas of the region and the construction of a large number of tourist facilities.”

Given that the heavy rainfall in the autumn season is specific to these areas, mudflows are inevitable.

The last monitoring showed that the accumulation of material also occurs in the Gusarchay, Gudialchay and Garachay rivers. The good news is that in other areas, there is no active development of mudflow sites.

It seem like there is no way out situation, but the scientist believes that rivers valleys like the Kishchay, Dashagylchay, Dyamiraparanchay, Girdimanchay and others can be cleared of debris, preventing the threat of mudflows.

Alizadeh said, the country carries out such work, but they do not have an integrated approach.

Only after the purification of river valleys from sediment, the work can proceed to repair and strengthen the anti-mudslide protection dyke.

Recently, the country started building anti-mudslide protection facilities, particularly in the Kishchay, Gyunchay, Dyamiraparanchay and Girdimanchay rivers.

However, this work is not enough to avert the threat to the settlements.

According to the National Department for Hydrometeorology of the Ecology and Natural Resources Ministry, currently, water richness holds at 60-90 percent of the decade norm in the rivers of Quba-Khachmaz regions of Major Caucasus, 70-120 percent in Minor Caucasus rivers, and 15-25 percent in Lankaran-Astara region rivers.

On September 16, in the regions of Azerbaijan expected rain and thunderstorms, showers in some places in the evening.

Azerbaijan experienced another dry and rainless summer this year. Moreover, last year, a drought in the country had damaged agricultural products and destroyed crop fields in some regions. Moreover, the lack of irrigation systems has negatively impacted the growth of fruits and vegetables.

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Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar

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