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Creation of effective administration system contributed to the improvement of Azerbaijan`s international prestige in the field of environment

Interview with  Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, member of YAP Political Council Huseyngulu Baghirov

Q: Revitalizing environment is among key priorities for the government together with all spheres of the country`s socio-economic life. What can you say of the environmental situation in the country?

A: Preservation of environment, the use of natural resources for the improvement of people`s welfare is an integral part of socio-economic reforms carried out in the country. The years of independence marked a turning point in the field of protection of environment , ensuring of ecological balance, and preservation of water, land, air resources, forests and biodiversity.

Azerbaijan has managed to preserve the dynamic pace of development. Our country is moving forward successfully in all areas. National leader Heydar Aliyev placed a particular emphasis to solving the issues related to the country`s environment and natural resources. The national leader took important measures to strengthen the protection of environment. This policy is today successfully continued by President Ilham Aliyev.

The fact that the President of Azerbaijan places a constant emphasis on ecological and environmental issues has significantly amplified activities implemented in the area of improving environmental conditions and enabled successful realization of a number of large projects.

Q: What is the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources doing to increase the effectiveness of measures aimed at solving environmental problems?

A: A large number of activities has been carried out by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. These activities focused on increasing efficiency of activities aimed at resolution of ecological problems, prevention of further ecological issues and facilitating effective solutions for shortcomings that have occurred. Currently, consistent measures are being taken in the area of resolving pressing environmental problems based on sustainable development principles within the framework of relevant state programs.  The implementation of activities as part of programs “on Environmentally Sustainable Social and Economic Development” and “On Efficient Utilization of Summer-Winter Pastures and Hayfields and Prevention of Desertification,” as endorsed by the President of Azerbaijan, has continued.

Considerable work is done under the presidential decree  “On Certain Measures for Improving Provision of the Population with Ecologically Clean Potable Water”, which are aimed at providing remote settlements in the country which lack centralized clean water with safe and potable water.

In 2014, module type water purification facilities were installed in 50 villages with the total population of 40,000 people. In general, from 2007 to 2015, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources installed water purification facilities in 320 residential areas in 20 districts to improve water supply for 530,000 people.

Q: What about the work to preserve biodiversity, expand special natural reserves?

A: I would like to applaud the Heydar Aliyev Foundation`s supporting project “Protection, reintroduction and restoration of historical habitats of gazelles within the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan”, which is of great importance for protection of ecology and balance of natural environment, ecologic history and biological diversity.

Work continues to build “Zagataa-balakan Biospheric Reserve”, which means that after its completion the total area of natural reserves will make 13 percent of the total territory of the country.

 Azerbaijan also achieved success in the evaluation related to forests, on all three components - the situation of forest resources, changes in forest cover and forest loss, according to the index of the situation of the environment and ecological development indicators showed the highest score and ranked first among 132 countries.

Q: And what about the expansion of greenery in the country?

A: We have carried out work to restore forests in the 130,000 hectare area in the past 12 years. This saw the planting of 100 million trees, cultivation of 350 million plants. The total area of forests increased from 11.4 percent to 11.8 percent (one million hectares).

In 2014, 1.2 million trees and bushes were planted in the Absheron peninsula. We installed water irrigation facilities in the 608 hectare area.

The ministry has recently implemented several large-scale projects with the aim of expanding the area of greenery in the country.

Q: Rapid development of economy necessitates advanced and flexible administration system. What is the ministry doing to increase the effectiveness of measures to protect environment?

A: The rapid development of all spheres of economics and human activity has led to an increasingly negative impact on the environment, including the inefficient usage of natural resources. As can be seen in many other countries, Azerbaijan is interested in finding solutions to the problems regarding environmental protection and rational utilization of natural resources. In support of Azerbaijan's environmental protection goals, a number of important laws, legal documents and state programs, all of which conform to European law requirements, have been developed and approved in order to improve the ecological situation in the country. As you said rapid development of economy necessitates advanced and flexible administration system. From this point of view I would like to emphasize the importance of the introduction of electronic government system.

Q: We would like you to briefly highlight the international cooperation in the field of protection of environment…

A: Rational and purposeful activity of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources aimed at environmental protection successfully continues in the field of international cooperation as well. The priority of our foreign policy, Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, the aggressive policy of Armenia in connection with Nagorno-Karabakh conflict based on the norms and principles of international law, during both bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the framework of integrity of Azerbaijan was the main issue on the agenda. As a result of the efforts of Azerbaijan in the framework of "Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context"(Espoo) of UN was taken a decision in connection with construction of a new nuclear reactor, Metsamor on the territory of Armenia in violation of Armenia's commitment to the Espoo Convention and was given a mandate to the implementing committee of Convention also to monitor. There has been successful cooperation in the field of environmental protection with a number of countries.  On May 7-8, 2014, the summit was co-organized by IDEA (International Dialogue for Environmental Action) in partnership with Heydar Aliyev Center, important international environmental NGOs, partners and local academicians in Caucasus region.In2014, Azerbaijan Republic has joined to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). On May 30, 2014 was held Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea (Tehran Convention) and decided to hold the next session in Baku. In this regard, on November 24-27, 2014 was held the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee of 6th session of the Parties Conference of Tehran Convention in Baku. In 2014, we developed cooperation with our counterparts  as well as with international organizations of regional and developed countries (for instance, Austria, Belarus, Qatar, France, Sweden, Macedonia, Mexico, Montenegro, Moldova, Lithuania, Slovakia, Turkmenistan, Japan, etc.).