South Caucasusꞌs hydro-security problems in human rights context

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Baku, 11 January 2018 –

Located and transmitted through the occupied territories, water sources (lakes, reservoirs, rivers, canals, etc.) play an important role in the ecology of the surrounding areas along with those areas. The aggression of Armenia on the unified ecosystem in the occupied territories and indifference of international organizations to this process has caused great disaster in the region. Studies conducted over the last half century show that the Kura, Araz rivers and their main sludge are polluted outside our republic – in Georgia and Armenia. So 100 % of Armenia territory, 30 % of Georgia territory, Turkeyꞌs 31 thousand, Iranꞌs 40 thousand area, Azerbaijanꞌs 37 thousand km2 part belong to Kur-Aras rivers. So, industrial, agricultural and household waste of these states is thrown into the Kura River and this contamination contains Kurꞌs 188 thousand km2 and Arasꞌs 103 thousand km2. The Kura River is mainly used by industrial enterprises and municipal household waste at Borjom, Ahalbaba, Khashuri, Gori, Kareli, Kaspi, and other settlements located on the banks of the River. The Kur River, which cuts down the city of Tbilisi after 40 km, is subject to sharp contamination.

As a result, the Kura River is highly contaminated and penetrates as a dangerous river for human and water organisms. Khramchay, the right arm of Kura flowing along the border of the two republics, brings a lot of waste water. In the territory of Georgia, the river Khram is the most polluted river of Armenia – the Debed River. Vanadzor (Kirovakan), Alaverdi and Stepanavan, Armenia's non-ferrous metallurgy, chemical and light industry centers are located in this river basin. Industrial and domestic wastes of these cities are discharged to the river without purification. Kirovakan chemistry is the third river in Armenia after Razdan (Zangi) and Oxchuchay according to Degedi river pollution rate, which is discharged from Alaverdi metallurgical combines and Axtala ore-gourning plant.

Water sources in many villages in the region have been polluted. The beds of rivers passing through these villages are full of garbage. As they go astray, the dirty wastes of some of the toilets are dumped into these rivers. Therefore, local residents filter the water they take from both rivers in their own stoves, and use filtered water for cooking, drinking tea, and other uses. In addition, separate sections of these rivers are closed and river water is discharged into the countryside. As a result, these residents water their yards and livelihoods from these waters. Local residents state that subarachian wells are used for irrigation. However, it is not possible to benefit from their waters at all.

One of the most serious problems in Tartar is due to the fact that residents of some villages receive drinking water. The majority of the local population sees in the purchase of water from the springs and artesian wells in the district center to meet their drinking water needs. Currently, the price of 1 ton of water is at least 5-6 manat depending on distance from the district center. In this district, 2 tons of water brought for washing the dishwasher is even sold at 10-15 manat. However, local residents do not have enough money to buy 2-3 times a month.

Interestingly, the international law on the use and protection of fresh water resources contradicts water monopoly and emphasizes that it is a "social and cultural blessing" of all living things. The General Commentary on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (No.15), adopted at the 29th session of the UN Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Commission (November 2002), states: "The right of the person to use water requires the provision of adequate and unimpeded drinking water for everyone to meet their daily and economic needs. An adequate amount of harmless water is a necessary factor to reduce the risk of death from thirst, lowering the risk of ill illness from daily use, food preparation, personal hygiene and sanitation". In general, the Pact has for the first time regarded the right of everyone to use water as an integral part of human rights. The human right to water is a necessary condition for the protection of his life and dignity. This right is crucial in ensuring other human rights.

The United Nations Human Development Report (2006) states: "The right of the person to use the water allows everyone to access the water in a safe, safe compact and affordable price for himself and his family. These five key attributes form the basis of water security and are the cornerstone of people's right to use water everywhere and continuously ". Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, the three Protocols Annexed to them in 1977 and 2005 are now recognized as fundamental documents aimed at protecting the rights of civilians during international conflicts in international humanitarian law. These documents contain provisions for the protection of the environment against harmful effects, and the inadmissibility of the use of conflict participants as a means of exposure to atmospheric, biosphere and hydrospheres. For example, under Article 35 (Basic Rules) of the Additional Protocol I ("On Victims of International Arms Crimes", June 8, 1977), "the use of large-scale, long-term and serious damage to the environment during military operations, the use of methods and remedies that are available" is forbidden. The Article 55 of the document deals with environmental protection during military conflicts: "During military action, the protection of the environment from large-scale, long-term and serious damage should be taken care of, and use of environmentally-repressive (political and economic sanctions against one state)" is prohibited. Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Geneva Convention of 18 May 1977 "On the Prohibition of the Use of Means of Intervention in the Field of Military Purposes or of Any Enmity" have also been deemed to be inconsistent with international law. In this document, the term "environment-friendly means" is interpreted as the means directed to the processes of purposeful change and management of the earth's dynamics, including the biota (historically formed organisms of living organisms in common area), lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere. It is clear that the use of these methods against each other by the participating states of the military conflict is inadmissible.

The occupation of the water basin has resulted in the violation of the following human rights in the region:

– Social rights;

– Economic rights;

– Education rights;

– Labor rights;

– Childrenꞌs rights;

– Rights of persons with disabilities;

– Woman rights;

On June 18, 1992, Azerbaijan joined the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on 23 June 1993. Occupation of the Saryngun Reservoir causes direct violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. So, in the region covered by Sarsang, the Convention provides for the violation of the rights of children with regard to education, health, leisure. At the same time, Armenia does not implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on the implementation of the Convention. The recommendations of the Convention are the statutory legal framework of the Convention on "Hydrometeorological Activity", "On Approval of the Water Code" and the Regulations on Environmental and Natural Resources Monitoring Procedures, which serve the implementation of these laws. Monitoring of composition and pollution of water resources is regularly monitored in the Azerbaijan Republic for the purpose of protection and rational utilization of water resources at the state level.

Yegana Bakhshiyeva,

junior researcher ANAS Caucasus Studies Institute Caucasus Policy Department

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