Armenian non-governmental organizations express deep concern about the position of Azerbaijani “environmentalists” engaged in political manipulations, which leads to the escalation of military aggression in the South Caucasus region and prevents the peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani military conflict, worsens the socio-ecological situation in the borderline regions.
The blockade of the Lachin Corridor, which is vital for the 120,000 people of Artsakh and connects Armenia with Artsakh, began with the actions of Azerbaijani “environmentalists” who announced the risks of mining in Artsakh.
The “environmentalists” stationed in the Lachin Corridor have been replaced by the armed forces of Azerbaijan, who claim political demands using violent methods.
In June 2023, Azerbaijan’s official agency dealing with environmental issues, issued a statement about Armenia’s violation of the Espoo Convention with regard to the construction of a metallurgical plant in the village of Yeraskh on the border of sovereign Armenia with Azerbaijan.
In the justification of the statement, facts are distorted, which allegedly testify to the violation of the provisions of the convention. The productivity of the metallurgical enterprise is 100 thousand tons per year, which is 10 times less than the minimum production capacity of 1 million tons per year, which can be considered within the framework of the requirements of the convention.
Regarding information, Armenia adheres to the Open Government Principles (OGP) and the requirements of the Aarhus Convention, and the required information on Environmental Impact Assessment is published on official websites, where the main technical parameters of production are indicated and the Environmental Impact Assessment is provided. Documents on the Yeraskh plant are also published on a public open platform. The RA Ministry of Environment responded to the statement of the Azerbaijani side. However, as in the case of Lachin, the Azerbaijani “environmentalists” were replaced by the military, who opened fire on the construction site of the Yeraskh factory, as a result of which two workers were seriously injured.
In July 2023, Azerbaijani “environmentalists” addressed an open letter to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan about the violation of environmental stability in the South Caucasus region due to the exploitation of mining enterprises. Note that some of the listed companies do not exist. The letter as a whole is an example of a mixture of true and false facts.
Information about the mining industry in Armenia can be obtained from the website www.eiti.am, which is the official website of Armenia, as a country with the status of member of the International Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI).
The mining sector is problematic all over the world. We, the representatives of the civil society of Armenia, realizing the global risks of climate change and sustainable development, make every effort to reduce them, raise specific issues and negotiate with the government and business within the framework of the EITI. We are also trying in a direct format to achieve legislative changes on specific issues, aimed at reducing risks and protecting social and environmental rights.
We believe that conscious representatives of civil society in Azerbaijan should pay attention to climate threats, the continuous pollution of the Caspian Sea basin and the violation of the rights of local population affected by industrial waste pollution, and strive to improve the social and environmental situation, reduce climate risks and improve protection of the rights of the active representatives of the local population and civil society who have come under physical security threats from law enforcement agencies and the state in general.
In particular, we are talking about the problems of Azerbaijan’s oil and gas industry, which is the main source of income for the country and its immediate leadership. For the information of Azerbaijani “environmentalists”, we should note that in 2006 all the coastal countries of the Caspian Sea, including Azerbaijan, have ratified the Tehran Convention on the “Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea”. The 21.3 thousand hectare area of the Apsheron Peninsula on the west coast of the Caspian Sea, rich in oil and gas reserves, is heavily polluted with oil and oil products. Long-term oil spills in this area have caused severe anthropogenic changes to the environment and natural landscape (TACIS 2009). The most toxic elements in Apsheron Peninsula are B, Al, Pb, U, Se, Fe, C, Na and Mg. (https://tehranconvention.org/system/files/tcis/caspian_soe_2011_rus.pdf).
Thus, Azerbaijan’s oil and gas industry poses a significant threat to the countries of the Caspian Sea basin: the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan itself.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline passes through the territory of Georgia, including a part of Borjomi National Park, which is rich in mineral water sources of “Borjomi”, the main export product of Georgia, and has international importance from the point of view of health and sports tourism. For several years, the representatives of the civil society of Georgia have expressed their opposition to the construction of an oil pipeline through a specially protected area, pointing out the risks of possible leaks and accidents, especially for mineral water sources. They demanded to change the route of the project.
However, the investors and the government of Azerbaijan did not agree to increase the cost of the project, and it was implemented with additional conditions. Considering the need for a “green” energy transition, an international audit of the activities of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and other oil and gas industry projects, fulfilled and unfulfilled obligations, as well as greenhouse gas emissions and environmental damage should be carried out.
Residents of Mirgurbanli and Yeni Gishlag villages of Neftchala region complain about radioactive iodine emissions, which are waste from the Neftchala iodine and bromine plant owned by “Azer Yod” LLC.
Residents sent the press a photo of the Mill-Mugan collector canal with brown contents. The press referred to the alarm signal in a prepared article stating that the complaints do not correspond to reality and referring only to the company’s employees. (https://media.az/society/1067841929/radioaktivnyy-yod-travit-zhiteley-neftchaly-foto/)
In 2023, the residents of Söyüdlü village of Gadabay District, Azerbaijan, expressed their opposition to the construction of a cyanide tailing dump. It was meant to be for the waste generated by the operation of the Gadabay gold and silver mine.
The residents are concerned about the consequences for their pastures and water. Azerbaijani law enforcement agencies took violent actions against them, using battons, rubber bullets, pepper and tear gas. (https://caneecca.org/azerbajdzhan-mestnoe-naselenie-protiv-czianidnogo-ozera/). None of the Azerbaijani organizations that signed the statement acted in defense of the residents of Söyüdlü village and the environment.
It should be noted that in 2017 Azerbaijan’s membership to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was suspended due to the violation of the principles of this initiative, the constant pressure of the country’s government on civil society and the use of harsh measures, as well as persecution of political opponents and journalists. Public activists who advocated for an open and accountable mining sector in Azerbaijan were either arrested or forced to leave the country due to political persecution. (https://bankwatch.org/press-release/azerbajdzhan-otstranen-ot-ipdo-po-zayavleniyu-bankwatch-i-counter-balance?lang=ru).
The statements of Azerbaijani non-governmental organizations are part of the aggressive policy of the Azerbaijani government, fulfilling the order of the authoritarian state regime, joining the military and informational aggression against Armenia and trying to terrorize the population of Armenia.
“EcoLur” Informational NGO
“Green Armenia” Environmental and Educational NGO
“Center for Community Mobilization and Support ” NGO
“Dalma-Sona” Educational, Cultural, Social and Environmental Foundation NGO
“Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center” NGO
“Human Rights Research Center” NGO
“Forests of Armenia” Environmental NGO
“For Equal Rights” Educational Center” NGO
“Vanadzor Office of the Helsinki Civil Assembly” NGO
“Center for Public Awareness and Monitoring” NGO
“Ecological Public Union” NGO
“BLEJAN” Environmental, Social and Business Support NGO
“Pink” Human Rights NGO
“Union of Conscious Citizens” NGO
“Restart Gyumri” Civic Initiatives Center NGO
“Helsinki Human Rights Association” NGO
“Free Citizen” NGO
“Public Journalism Club” NGO
“Martuni Women’s Community Council” NGO
“Goris Press Club” NGO
“Prospective Development Center” NGO
“Center for Media Initiatives” NGO
Roza Julhakyan, Expert in Environment and Climate
Silva Ayvazyan, Expert in Environment and Climate
Karine Taslakyan, Expert in Sustainable Development and Management