Water shortage and drought create hardship in rural areas of Azerbaijan

Foto: Meydan TV

Farmers suffer from thirst, eco-activists condemn the oligarchs, and the government considers price increases…

The part of the Kura River passing through the Salyan and Neftchala regions has dried up in the last few days. The sharp decrease in the water level in the river has left thousands of residents living in the Kuratraf regions in a desperate situation. The villagers are also worried that their fields will be destroyed due to the lack of irrigation water during spring planting.

Nizam Huseynov, a resident of Neftchala city located on the banks of the Kura River, told Meydan TV that the river has been dry for about ten days. Although the flow has been flowing for the last couple of days, pumping water is still not possible in some areas.

Mammad Mammadov, a resident of the Surra village of Sabirabad, said that the drop in the water level in Kur has been causing difficulties for crops for three years now. Since they are not able to carry out timely irrigation, their crops are destroyed, in the best case, the productivity decreases and they suffer damage. However, Mammadov pinned his hopes on spring rain:

“It’s not rainy yet, but I don’t lose hope, I pray to God day and night.”

Photo: Meydan TV

Many experts attribute the sharp drop in the water level in Araz, including Kura, and other rivers in the country to climate change, as well as to a decrease in precipitation.

From the second ten days of February, problems have arisen in Baku’s drinking water supply. “Azersu” Joint Stock Company has officially announced that they have switched to a new mode of saving water.  

Javid Gara, head of “Ecofront” organization and eco-activist, believes that the main culprit of water shortage is oligarchs’ agricultural parks:

“There is a large farm zone from Kazakh to Ganja. Large greenhouses were created, and gardens and agricultural parks were built. About 10,000 hectares of winter pastures are intensively irrigated.”

Javid Black
Photo: Facebook

Javid Kara links the water shortage with the decrease in consumption:

“Winter pastures have been planted from Cheyranchol, Korchai, Agyazi, Harami plain to Mil Mugan plain. Hundreds of shepherds were forcibly displaced, and the officials created an agricultural park. All agro parks in the place of winter pastures belong to official tradesmen. They also use water first. If that’s enough, they leak to the black community as well.”

Ekofäal said that Turkey’s role in the formation of Kura river water is 5-10 percent. 2-3 percent of the water basin belongs to Turkey.

“If we take these places as an active catchment area 2-3 times more than the average, it still does not exceed 10 percent. In other words, even if Turkey completely cuts off the Kurun water, the situation should not be so sad”, Javid Kara said.

He noted that Turkey’s role in the Kura River is the last. Turkey is named because Kur begins there:

“Kur catchment basin in Armenia is wider and falls in higher mountainous areas than in Turkey. There is neither serious irrigation nor HPPs in those areas. There is a small warehouse on a small river on the border with Kazakhstan. The local village poses a significant problem. Georgia sees the gravity of Kurun water formation. Rivers originating from glaciers in mountains above 4000 meters pass through areas with abundant rainfall. There are not many irrigated areas in the Kurun basin in Georgia. They don’t need as much watering as we do, because it rains a lot. In dry places near us, most of them are used as winter baits.

Ecologist Rovshan Abbasov told Meydan TV that water releases from the Mingachevir reservoir and the reservoirs on the Araz river should be gradually increased. At the same time, it is necessary to dismantle the dam between the Kur and the Caspian Sea.

The Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, “Amelioration and Water Management” OJSC, and “Azersu” OJSC held a joint press conference on the water shortage last week.

Deputy Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources Vugar Karimov said that Azerbaijan ranks 90th out of 100 in terms of per capita water resources. In recent years, water resources have been decreasing, and until 2050, water resources will decrease by 15-20 percent.

 Deputy Chairman of “Azersu” OJSC Etibar Mammadov said that Kuru is not drying up, but its water is decreasing. This is also related to global climate change. The deputy chairman added that drinking water is sold at a lower price than the cost price. This also prevents the profitable operation of “Azersu” OJSC. The Tariff Council may decide to increase water tariffs in the future:

“In this regard, we are preparing such a program so that the water prices will be revised.”

Rafiq Aslanov, deputy chairman of “Melioration and Water Management” OJSC, informed that a number of measures are being taken by the water commission in Azerbaijan to prevent water shortage, and the experience of foreign countries has been studied. He noted that all earthen channels in neighboring Turkey have been replaced with concrete lining. Waste of water is not allowed there:

There are illegal fish ponds in Azerbaijan. There are 250,000 irrigated areas under Kur. In February, less water was released into the sphere. About 530,000 hectares of grain have been planted in the republic, and these crops are provided with irrigation.”

Aslanov also said that the price of raw water in Azerbaijan costs 70-80 AZN.

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