Water pollution is a great ecological alert that modern human beings are dealing with. Industrial waste, discharge of contaminants such as heavy metals and chemicals from farms, factories, and mines into the waters are the main reasons behind this environmental issue. Indeed, reckless exploitation of the water brings along many destructions; not only does it kill water plants and animals, but it is also a global threat to human lives, agriculture, and the economy.

Okhchuchay river in Azerbaijan also suffers from pollution on a catastrophic scale. The river is a left tributary of the Araz River with 83 km in length and 1175 km2 in the basin area. The river streamflow is formed by snow (46%), rain (10%) and groundwater (44%).  The main current of the river is located in Syunik, Armenia where is also known as Zangazur – a historical territory of Azerbaijan. The river flows through the liberated Zangilan district into the Araz River.


Estimated 70% of the surface water of Azerbaijan is transboundary and comes from neighboring countries, Armenia and Georgia. However, neither of these countries have yet joined Helsinki Convention on Transboundary Watercourses which was signed in 1992. The convention establishes a legal framework within which two or more parties can work together to prevent and regulate water pollution across national borders, as well as to ensure that transboundary waters are used in a fair and equal way.

The transboundary river Okhchuchay is continually contaminated by Gafar and Gajaran mines in Armenia. Having recently liberated its long-occupied lands from Armenia, Azerbaijan had access to the Zangilan district. Some samples were taken from the water to test the water quality by Azerbaijani ecologists. Unfortunately, the result of the test reveals that the river is heavily contaminated with heavy metals, in particular, copper, molybdenum, manganese, iron, zinc and chromium.

According to the report given by the Ministry of Ecology of Azerbaijan “water sample taken from the upper reaches of the Okhchuchay (near Garagol village) in Zangilan region, manganese was 3.6 times, iron 4.6 times, nickel 5.7 times, cadmium 3.5 times, lead 1.3 times, zinc 1.2 times, molybdenum 2.5 times more than the norm. Water sample taken about 2 km lower upstream of the Okhchuchay river (near Sarigishlag village) in Zangilan region, ammonium 1.6 times, manganese 4 times, iron 4.5 times, nickel 5.5 times, cadmium 2.9 times, molybdenum 1.9 times more than the norm. Water sample taken about 3 km lower upstream of Okhchuchay river (near Zangilan city).On the territory of Zangilan region, ammonium 2.1 times, manganese 3.9 times, nickel 5.2 times, cadmium 3.3 times, molybdenum 1.2 times more than the norm.”

“Water terror was carried out in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, river flow was prevented in the summer months when water was important, water was released in the winter months and floods occurred,” says Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov. Armenia, he claims, dumped the mining waste into the river without filtering it: “This is a large scale problem. Since the Oxchuchay flows into the Araz River and creates a big problem not only for Azerbaijan but also for Iran. We demand a serious response to this issue. It will be impossible for Armenia to avoid its responsibility. At the same time, we appeal to foreign companies operating in Armenia and demand taking practical measures.”

It worth noting that the German company Cronimet Holding is also held accountable for the contamination of Okhchuchay river as it is the main shareholder of the Gajaran mine. Azerbaijan has already addressed German authorities in order to reach a solution of this urgent matter as soon as possible.


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