Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is situated on the western coast of the Caspian Sea and has boundaries with Iran, Armenia, Georgia, and Russia. The area of Azerbaijan is 53,813 sq. mi. (139,375 sq. km.), with a variety of geographic regions including mountains, steppe, desert, and subtropical rainforest. Pastureland, broad leaf forests, farms, and orchards lie in the fertile lower slopes. The range of climate zones include: dry subtropical regions with mild winters and hot dry summers; forest zones with more precipitation and a moderate climate, with cold winters and warm summers; and the city of Baku, with desert conditions, short, cold winters, long, sweltering summers, and little rainfall.

Natural resources include oil, natural gas, grain, cotton, rice, tobacco, fruit, vegetables, grapes, and livestock. Agriculture in arid and semi-arid regions requiring irrigation accounts for approximately 80 percent of production. Exploitation of Azeri oil, dumping of toxic industrial waste, and agricultural practices including overuse of artificial fertilizer and chemical pesticides have resulted in soil damage and contamination of water sources. The impact of global warming is already seen with the rising level of the Caspian Sea. Though the sea level fell due to hydroelectric dam construction on the Volga River and diversion of water for irrigation, since 1978, the water level has risen 6.6 ft. (2 m.) at a rate of 5.9-9.8 in. (15-25 cm.) per year.

Caused by a combination of climate change, increased runoff from deforested land, and tectonic movement, the impact has resulted in coastal erosion with damage to roads and buildings, salinization leading to desertification of forests and farmland, and contamination because of flooding of oilfields and industrial areas. In September 2000, Azerbaijan ratified the Kyoto Protocol, an international and legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, which took effect on February 16, 2005.

Countries that are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are required to undertake "national communication" that can include assessment of the potential impact of climate change. To meet this challenge, the Initial National Communication of the Azerbaijan Republic was developed and submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat. Proposed projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions include increased use of hydropower, solar energy, and wind energy; switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs; improved efficiency in oil production; introducing new technology for biogas production and methane collection; and the protection of agricultural fields with the planting of forests to mitigate the effect of frequent droughts and hot dry winds that cause crop failures. A reduction of demand for water by 10-15 percent and an increase of lines of productivity by 15-30 percent are expected as a result of project implementation.

sEE ALso: Agriculture; Deforestation; Floods.

BIBLIoGRAPHY. Federal Research Division, Azerbaijan-A Country Study (Kessinger Publishing, 2004); State Hydro-meteorological Committee, Capacity Improvement Activities on Climate Change in the Priority Sectors of Economy of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan, 2001).

Lyn Michaud Independent Scholar

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