Explosives removal project in Azerbaijan to be extended

  • 20 Jun. 2007 - 20 Jun. 2007
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  • Last updated: 18 Aug. 2008 15:44

A joint NATO PfP Trust Fund project to clear deadly post-Soviet unexploded ordnance in Azerbaijan is to be extended for another 16 months in order to tackle areas that are heavily contaminated.

The former military base at Saloglu, Agstafa district, was the largest Soviet ammunition storage facility in the South-Caucasus region, numbering 138 bunkers.

When Azerbaijan regained its independence in 1991, the facility was destroyed by the departing Soviet Army, scattering thousands of pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO) over an area of 4 400 hectares.

A deadly threat

Since then, 32 persons have been killed in some 150 accidents involving unexploded ordnance.

In January 2006, a NATO PfP Trust Fund project was launched to clear 568 hectares of the most hazardous areas. To date 525 hectares have been cleared, with more than 215 000 UXOs located and 72 000 destroyed.

However, experts have determined that subsurface contamination by UXOs in certain areas is much higher than expected, posing significant problems in the ‘Red Zone’ of the project.

Following a joint visit by NATO and Azeri experts, the decision was made to launch a second phase of the project, which will cover subsurface clearance of the Red Zone.

This phase will require funding of € 440 000.  It is expected to start in June 2007 and last for 16 months.  The Government of Azerbaijan is covering € 131 000, Turkey, the lead nation for the original project, € 50 000 , and Bulgaria € 15 000.

The Government of Azerbaijan is kindly inviting other countries to consider contributing.

From minefield to farmland

In addition, a decision was made to use fertilizer produced by another NATO-supported project in Azerbaijan – converting hazardous rocket fuel into fertilizers – as a soil enhancer in Saloglu.

This will help to speed up the remediation of the Saloglu area, parts of which have already been converted into farmland.