Hundreds of hectares of shrubs and forests are being cut down in the north of Azerbaijan. The Ministry of Ecology has leased this territory to a private company that will grow hazelnuts in the area.
The lease term is 49 years. Environmental activists are sounding the alarm and calling for a stop to the felling.
Environmental organization Ecofront is trying to attract public attention to what is happening.
They say the leasing of the land contradicts the decree of the president on territory belonging to the forest fund.
“We urge that the felling be temporarily suspended and arrange a public discussion of this issue and conduct the necessary legal procedures. But in response to our calls, the pace of work is only accelerating,” Ecofront writes on its Facebook page.
Activists also mention possible economic harm. Azerbaijan is actively exporting hazelnuts, and Ecofront believes that if Azerbaijani nuts are grown at the cost of logged forests, it will harm their image and demand in the world.
Locals: “We are being deprived of our livelihood”
Residents of the village of Bideiz, Sheki district, in the vicinity of which there are more than 300 hectares of shrubs and trees, are also dissatisfied with the destruction of the local forests.
“If one of us cuts at least one tree in the forest for our needs, we will be fined a fine sum. And then some dealers cut down whole hectares, and nobody cares,” says pensioner Shaban Osmanov.
“On the one hand, they constantly talk about gardening on TV, and on the other hand, our beautiful ancient forests are being cut down. In addition, our livestock graze on these lands. And cattle breeding for us is the main source of income,” adds another resident of the same village, Javid Ismayilov.
Response from the Ministry of Ecology
Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources employee Agagardash Garashov said that the felling pursues exclusively good goals:
“These territories are leased for the rational use of the potential of the forest fund. The creation of agricultural areas will create new jobs, provide the population with fruit, and improve its socio-economic situation.”
Moreover, according to him, “the ministry will continue to lease open spaces included in the forest fund for a long-term lease.”