Due to the geographical location of Azerbaijan in the arid climate zone, about 90% of irrigation water is used in the agriculture in the country. In this regard, the Karabakh region is no exception. For this reason, back in 1976 during the Soviet period, the Sarsang reservoir was built on Tartarchay, with a length of 12 km and a water capacity of 565 million m3, in Aghdara district in order to develop agriculture in the region.
This hydro power plant was the highest reservoir built in Azerbaijan with the distinct height of its dam. It provided irrigation water to approximately 100 thousand hectares of land not only in Karabakh, but also in the lowland areas of Karabakh such as Tartar, Aghdam, Barda, Goranboy, Yevlakh and Aghjabadi. In addition, the residents in these districts used this water as a source of drinking water.
However, in the 90s of the last century, the separatist movements initiated by the Armenians in Karabakh ended in a bloody war and Armenian military units occupied 20% of the lands of Azerbaijan, including the Aghdara district. A number of strategically important facilities, including the Sarsang reservoir, came under the control of the Armenian separatists.
As a result of occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia for almost 30 years, not only aggressive policies towards our country were implemented from these territories, but also natural resources of our country were brutally looted, mineral resources were extracted in the form of raw materials and transported to Armenia together with the land. On the top of it, critical damage was done to the country’s economy, as well as to its ecology by deliberately polluting our transboundary rivers.
Three years ago, as a result of the Patriotic War, a large part of our occupied territories was liberated from the Armenian occupying forces, but illegal Armenian military units still reside in the Karabakh region, and eco-terrorism against Azerbaijan from the territories controlled by these forces is still ongoing to this day. Therefore, Armenian occupying military units maintain the largest water reservoir in Karabakh – Sarsang reservoir located in Aghdara district under their control, exposing the surrounding areas to eco-terrorism.
Otherwise stated, the Sarsang reservoir and the hydro power plant located on it have been targeted by the Armenian authorities for a genuine object of ecological and humanitarian terrorism against Azerbaijan. In other words, during winter, Armenians create artificial floods and overflows in the lowland areas by releasing excess water from the Sarsang Reservoir, destroying agricultural fields, while in the summer, they further cause critical damage to Azerbaijan’s agriculture by blocking the water and causing an artificial drought.
Consequently, hectares of farmland and greenery have been lost and the region is facing a severe environmental disaster.
Meanwhile, due to complete dilapidation during the 30-year occupation, the dam of the Sarsang reservoir has been eroded, most of the technogenic facilities have collapsed, causing a grave situation here. Natural technogenic events – earthquakes, or any provocation that can occur at any time, leading to the collapse of the dam. The collapse of the waterfilled dam of the Sarsang reservoir can completely flood the territory of the neighbouring Tartar district within an hour, and six more districts within the next 2-3 hours, causing a grave humanitarian crisis.
Simply put, despite signing the tripartite Susha Declaration accompanying the end of the war, the Armenian authorities still maintain illegal military units in 4% of the territory of Karabakh and pursue the policy of occupation in the Azerbaijani lands. This does not preclude the Armenian leadership from using the Sarsang reservoir as a real ecological and humanitarian terrorism object against Azerbaijan.
Hence, the Azerbaijani side further informs all international organizations about the eco-terrorism carried out by Armenians through the Sarsang reservoir.
Moreover, it is worth noting that in 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution on “Expected humanitarian catastrophe caused by the dangerous condition of the Sarsang water reservoir in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan.” The document strongly condemns Armenia`s illegal blockade of water supply and irrigation systems located in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan in violation of basic principles of international law. PACE called on the Armenian military forces to hand over illegal control of the reservoir and all associated irrigation systems to the Azerbaijani authorities pursuant to previous international resolutions. The resolution called on the international community to take immediate action in order to deter any military provocation plans and prepare for any accidents or natural disasters that could result in mass casualties under the current circumstances.
It is also of great importance to note that, in accordance with the resolution of the UN General Assembly dated September 7, 2006 on the “Situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan”, the mission of the OSCE on the assessment of the ecological situation also conducted a study and issued a relevant opinion. The delegation visiting the region came to the conclusion that the lack of sufficient water supply is seriously damaging Azerbaijan’s agriculture, which has already led to the complete destruction of forest massifs in the area.
It is high time to put an end to the eco-terrorism carried out by the Armenians against Azerbaijan through the Sarsang reservoir, as also documented by the international organizations. Management and administration of the Sarsang reservoir should be immediately handed over to the Azerbaijani side.
For many years, the Azerbaijani authorities have been fighting with determination and perseverance to hinder the eco-terrorism carried out by Armenia against our country through the Sarsang reservoir. However, this, in its turn, did not bring the necessary results.
The irreversible damage, which was caused by the Armenian side further carrying out its eco-terrorism, affecting not only Azerbaijan, but also the fauna and flora of the entire South Caucasus region, as well as to the health of the people living in the region, should concern the European community as well.
Otherwise stated, the European heads of states, officials of notable international organizations of the continent, as well as the parliaments of the states need to take measures to curb such wicked actions by Armenians and exert pressure on the Armenian authorities. If not, an environmental crisis that will hit the region in the near future will bring about inevitable consequences.
Chairman of the Environmental Awareness Public Union