Azerbaijani NGOs demand halt to Armenian construction of steel plant near border with Nakhchivan

Azerbaijani NGOs demand halt to Armenian construction of steel plant near border with Nakhchivan

A coalition of Azerbaijani NGOs on transparency in extractive industries has distributed a position paper on the construction of a large metallurgical plant in Armenia, in Arazdeyan village (Eraskh) on the border with Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, according to Azerbaijan in Focus, reporting Turan News.

Quoting the Armenian Ministry of Economy, the document says that the enterprise, which will occupy 16500 square meters, will manufacture 180.000 tons of steel products annually.

“Metallurgical enterprises are complex production complexes consisting of various workshops and often smaller plants. Technological processes in metallurgical plants are accompanied by the emission of large amounts of gases, dust, slag, wastewater, toxic chemicals and other emissions. Metallurgical plants are a source of heavy atmospheric emissions and pollution. Even after production has ended, they can have a negative impact on the environment,” the Position Paper goes on to say.

Therefore, according to Azerbaijani activists, the establishment of large metallurgical plants is accompanied by the formation of long-term environmental problems in the surrounding areas.

Thus, depending on the strength and direction of the wind, the pollution of the area from the metallurgical plants extends from 20 to 50 kilometres. Aside from this, 5-15 kg of dust falls per square metre. Thus, anthropogenic zones with harmful substances in soil, water and plants are formed around these plants.

Toxic chemical waste from this smelter, which will be built only 800 metres from the border with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan, could have a major impact on the region’s ecosystem, and the risk of its waste being dumped in the Araz River is a wake-up call for both the wildlife of the river and the vast farming areas that use its water for irrigation.

At the same time, a coalition of Azerbaijani NGOs reminds that Armenia’s already operating large mining enterprises – the Kajaran copper-molybdenum complex and the Gafan mining and processing plant – have for many years been intensively polluting the Araz and Okhchuchay rivers with water containing chemicals and thus having a serious negative impact on the ecological environment of Azerbaijan.

As it is further stated in the Position Paper, the construction of a metallurgical plant on the border with Azerbaijan without an agreement with the Azerbaijani side is a gross violation of the 1991 Espo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context. Azerbaijan and Armenia are parties to this convention, and an environmental impact assessment of the plant to be built should be conducted on the basis of the convention.

The environmental impact assessment document of the plant must be reviewed by the relevant Azerbaijani institutions.  The views of Azerbaijanis living in the vicinity of the plant’s construction should also be taken into account.

A coalition of Azerbaijani NGOs calls on the US government to demand that the company registered in their territory, which is building the said plant in Arazdoyan, behave responsibly and not turn a blind eye to its lawlessness. United States officials, including the US Embassies in Azerbaijan and Armenia, should not remain silent, but should express a clear attitude towards the issue, the authors of the Position Paper believe.

A coalition of Azerbaijani NGOs believes that the construction of the plant, which will carry out such a large-scale technological process, should be stopped immediately due to the risk of serious negative impacts on the environment.

In agreement with Azerbaijan, the construction is to be relocated to a location away from the transboundary Araz river and away from populated areas.