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Transboundary Water Issues In The South Caucasus In The Context Of International Law

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Adishirin Alakbarov (Baku, Azerbadijan), Kelbiyev Yashar , Mammadova Jeyhuna
Sukanal “SRDI1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 12: Transboundary river basins and shared aquifers,
AbstractThe Caucasus is a region at the border of Europe and Asia, situated between the Black and the Caspian seas. There are transboundary water relations between Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Iran Russia and Turkey in limited space. The Kura-Araz rivers basin catchment area is about 188 thousand km2 which is a main water artery of South Caucasus. Whereas the Kura-Araz rivers basin is not very large at first glance, basin covers area of Armenia completely, most of its territory of Azerbaijan and Georgia, significant territories of Turkey, Iran. From this countries Azerbaijan is located in the lower part of the Kura-Araz rivers basin. For this reason, throughout the basin, water flow starting from the area of Turkey, Iran, Georgia and Armenia, passing through the territory of Azerbaijan and discharged into the Caspian Sea.

There are transboundary problems between Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in the region. There are no serious and critical problems between countries in respect of the use of water resources. The main problem is pollution of transboundary water flows. In the territory of Georgia every year around 330 billion cubic meters of contaminated water is discharged into the Kura river and its tributaries without any treatment. The Kura river's tributaries flowing through Armenia Akstafachay, Ijevan, Dilijan and others, contains chemical dye, oil products, phenols, ammonias and other other contaminants (over 1 billion m3/year) that are discharged into the river together with wastewater. The rivers Alazan and Iori (left tributaries of the Kura river) enter to Azerbaijan already polluted in the territory of Georgia.

Azerbaijan's second biggest river Araz has huge contamination concerns. Left tributaries such as Razdan, Arpachai, Okhchuchai etc. of the Araz River contain hazardous substances (nitrite nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen, heavy metals and other pollutants exceeding the sanitary norms dozens of times), which come from Armenia with water flow. Volume of annual wastewater disposal into the Araz River in the territory of Armenia is about 350 mln m3. Waste waters from Qajaran copper-molybdenum, Gafan copper-enrichment are flown to Okhchuchay without purification. During mass water flow "river water" which enters with Okhchuchay to the territory of Azerbaijan contains red-brown and almost black ooze flow. This liquid contains high concentration of aluminum, copper, zinc, manganese, titanium, bismuth and other component.

UN, UNESCO, UNECE, INBO, GWP and other international organizations aims consistent and durable for management of water resources on the principles of justice and mutual agreement, recognition and implementation international principles and norms on use and protection transboundary watercourses by all countries of the world, ensuring more countries to join international convention on transboundary water resources. In spite of international organizations accepted as of 20 significant documents on effective use of transboundary waters, most of these conventions haven't been applied.

It have been clearly identified that use of transboundary waters passing through its own territory according to the necessary requirements, and take into account the rights of the other border states based on the principle "rational and equitable use of water resources" of the main document on transboundary waters UNECE "Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes" Helsinki Convention.

While implementing measures for the prevention, control and reduction of water pollution the parties shall be guided a) the precautionary principle b) "the polluter-pays" c) water resources shall be managed so that the needs of the present generation-the main principles of humane governance, but in point of fact Helsinki Convention faces big challenges in the implementation and doesn't operate effectively. In this regard, we consider it necessary to note 2 items: 1) many states ignores it and do not sign the convention; 2) There is also a need to put more acute problem in the Convention.

In the sentence "Water pollution prevention", control and reduction which arrange the basis of the Convention the lined up words make the main essence weaker instead of strengthening. The phrase of " Prevention, control and reduction of water pollution" in "Model Provisions on Transboundary Groundwaters" preparing by UNECE Helsinki Convention on the application of groundwater is maintained as well as before in convention. It will be more expedient putting issue concretly such as "prevention water pollution". In this respect virtuality was imprinted more correctly in the European Water Framework Directive. The main objectives of Directive is the reduction of the concentrations up to the limits which can be found in the nature and achievement of the elimination at all.

The Parties shall eliminate hazardous substances in transboundary watercourses protecting the ecological mode, to ensure that transboundary waters are used with the aim of ecologically sound and rational water management, used in a reasonable and equitable way, shall take priority measures for environmental protection, maintaining and restoring ecosystem if necessary in accordance with 2nd article of the "Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes". As shown in obligations under the Convention it is necessary to take precautions during these activities, shall be warned about the possible impact of hazardous substances carrying in transboundary waters, responsible party have to pay the cost of eliminating the damage, if discharged harmful substances into the waters.

Despite the clause shown in the Convention that the country located in the upper side of trans boundary River shall not impact of surface water quantity and quality without consent of country located in the lower side of the river but the real situation is different in South Caucasus. The Republic of Azerbaijan which 70 % of water demand is developed into surface water of trans boundary Rivers has joint to 17 different international conventions on the protection of the environment, including ratification of Helsinki Convention for Use and Protection of Trans boundary Water Sources and International Lakes of United Nations.

Other countries of South Caucasus -- Georgia and Armenia, have not joint to Helsinki Convention up to date and continue their illegal activities on trans boundary flows. Therefore, the legal resolution of the problem is limited.

....continued in references section. In the result of non acceptance of international low on water sources by the all countries of South Caucasus pollution of trans boundary rivers with industrial and domestic wastes are continued. In the meantime operation of hydraulic facilities which affect the amount of water in the rivers in the neighboring countries agreed to operate hydraulic installations. A flow impact to the rivers coming through Armenia to Azerbaijan, use of Sarsang water reservoir which is under occupation as hydro diversion intentions and etc. against people and environment proves the dangerous nature of the problem.

Either in other regions of the world or in South Caucasus water pollution, monopoly of water resources as well as use of sources as hydro diversion intention is inacceptable. The development of further activities by the International Organizations in order to ensure recognizing and unconditional acceptance of international principles in the whole region on use of trans boundary water sources and their protection.

1. Alekperov A.B.,Aqamirzayev R.Ch., Alekperov R.A. Geoenvironmental problems of Azerbaijan. Urban Groundwater Management and Sustainability. Dordrecht, Holland, Springer, pp.33-58.
2. Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, Helsinki, Finland, 1992.
3. Model Provisionson Transboundary Groundwaters. UNECE, New York and Geneva, 2014.
4. Геология Азербайджана. Том VIII. Гидрогеология и инженерная геология. Баку, Изд. "Nafta-Press", 2008, 380 с.

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