Azerbaijan's EPF coalition condemns Armenia's damaging South Caucasus ecology

Politics Materials 10 August 2023 21:15 (UTC +04:00)
Elchin Mehdiyev
Elchin Mehdiyev
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, August 10. The "Environmental Protection First" Coalition of Azerbaijan issued a statement regarding Armenia damaging the South Caucasus ecology, Trend reports.

"We condemn the response statement addressed by the Ministry of Environment of Armenia on the metallurgical plant under construction in Arazdayan (Yeraskh) of Vedibasar region of the Republic of Armenia on the border with Azerbaijan," the statement said.

"Establishing this large-scale metallurgical plant blatantly ignores internationally accepted standards and principles, particularly those outlined in the UN Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention)," the statement noted. "The Espoo Convention recognizes that environmental issues go beyond national borders and underscores the importance of international dialogue when multiple countries are involved in specific cases."

According to the statement, construction of such a facility along the border without mutual agreement from the Azerbaijani side constitutes a clear breach of the 1991 Espoo Convention, which focuses on evaluating the environmental impact in situations spanning borders.

"Both Azerbaijan and Armenia have ratified this Convention. Following the guidelines of the Espoo Convention, the environmental assessment report related to the construction should be examined by relevant Azerbaijani institutions, taking into account the perspective of neighboring Azerbaijani residents who live in close proximity to the area, as well as eco-activists," the statement said.

Besides, according to the statement, the response from the Armenian side is a denial of the cooperation, violation of the Espoo Convention, and deviating from the subject matter.

"Armenia should create a suitable environment to actively engage in dialogue and decision-making processes related to the construction, to conduct technical expertise, monitoring, and evaluation by involving international NGOs and civil society representatives from countries in the region (including NGOs from Azerbaijan and Georgia) to measure the extent of the damage and potential solutions," the statement pointed out.

Referring to Articles 3.1 and 3.7 of the Espoo Convention, as well as Clause 4 of Annex I of the same Convention, the Azerbaijani side has formally requested comprehensive details from Armenia concerning the adverse cross-border impacts stemming from the activities undertaken in Arazdayan.

"Providing this information falls under Armenia's international commitments. The unsubstantiated accusations made in Armenia's response regarding Azerbaijan's engagement in 'shooting at Arazdayan' are entirely incorrect and unacceptable," the statement also noted. "While we are raising our profound concerns about the ecological catastrophe, Armenia deliberately deviates from the subject by politicizing it. Such provocations cannot serve as a camouflage for environmental offenses."

As the statement said, instead of furnishing official data, Armenian official bodies appear to be attempting to persuade media outlets that the potential repercussions will be minimal.

"Regrettably, this stance contradicts the requirements of the Espoo Convention. Preliminary observations on our part reveal that environmental monitoring and impact assessment reports issued by mining enterprises operating in Armenia, spanning soil, air quality, surface and groundwater conditions, as well as flora and fauna, are not being made fully accessible to the general public," the authors explained.

The 2022 Armenia Country Report from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) highlights that certain mining firms failed to generate environmental monitoring reports for the period of 2020-2021, and the country did not make the environmental assessment findings available to the public, the statement further pointed out.

"Considering the aforementioned circumstances and the accumulating public discontent arising from the detrimental influence of Armenia's mining sector on Azerbaijan's ecological environment over the years, our coalition anticipates the complete disclosure of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) documents," the statement said. "The full texts of the EIA reports to be made public, as well as the numerous public dissatisfaction that has been growing due to the negative effects of Armenia's mining industry on the ecology of Azerbaijan for years."

Armenia should acknowledge the legal obligation it bears in not withholding and disclosing these crucial environmental records, said the coalition.

"We urge both domestic and foreign companies involved in Armenia's mining industry to promptly publish the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) documents, and the findings on their official webpages to make it publicly accessible. The right to information is an essential element of democracy and the rule of law. Concealing the information is a violation of human rights," the statement said.

It further said that Armenia must meet its responsibilities by guaranteeing that impacted communities can obtain information about the activities of plants, engage meaningfully in the processes of decision-making, and address any environmental damage that occurs.

"The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide a crucial framework for promoting responsible conduct in business, including the extractive industry," the statement said.

These principles underscore the need for companies to uphold human rights, prevent adverse environmental impacts, and engage with affected communities in a transparent and inclusive manner, said the statement.

"We urge all stakeholders involved in metallurgical plant building in Arazdayan to align their actions with these principles and integrate them into their operational practice," concluded the statement.

Previously, Azerbaijani environmentalists issued an open letter to Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, listing Armenian polluters of the environment. The letter stated that the deterioration of the ecosystem as a result of continuous mining operations endangers not just Armenia's ecology but also neighboring countries.

The open letter authors called on the prime minister to stop the construction of a new metallurgical plant being built in Arazdayan contrary to the requirements of environmental standards and international conventions, adding that the potential impact of this plant's toxic chemical waste on the local ecosystem could be enormous.