The official launching of the EU4Environment – Water Resources and Environmental Data programme in Azerbaijan was held in an online format on 2 March 2022. This European Union funded programme will further support the country in the preservation of its natural resources in line with the European Green Deal and a post-COVID-19 green recovery. It aims to improve the health and wellbeing of Azerbaijani citizens, as well as the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The programme is part of the Team Europe Initiative on Water and Zero Pollution, which aims at moving towards a toxic-free environment for all citizens.
EU4Environment – Water Resources and Environmental Data reinforces the on-going EU4Environment Action in Azerbaijan. It aims i) to support the implementation of existing and new policies and regulations at local levels through decentralized management of water resources, and ii) to give access to reliable data and information on water resources, but also on air quality, land use and waste to decision-makers and Azerbaijani citizens. To this end, EU4Environment – Water Resources and Environmental Data builds upon the success of previous operational projects like the European Water Initiative Plus (EUWI+) and the Shared Environmental Information System Phase II (ENIS SEIS II East).
The EUWI+ project has helped Azerbaijan implement the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU and gradually adopt EU water management practices. River Basin Management Plan for the Kura – upstream of the Mingachevir dam is now ready for adoption (15,000km2, 1.5 Million inhabitant). To reinforce knowledge of water resources, three water laboratories were refurbished with new high-end analytical equipment. Monitoring sites for rivers and groundwater were upgraded, and field surveys covering around 130 sites including coastal waters were held. Additional work on water data integration, laws and regulations enforcement, transboundary cooperation with Georgia and financing mechanisms were also undertaken during the project.
The ENI SEIS II East project supported implementation of the principles and practices of the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) to strengthen the production of environmental data and indicators in biodiversity, water, land, waste and air. The project developed Azerbaijan’s institutional capacity in environmental assessment and accounting, and as an example introduced new tools for improving the accessibility of air quality measurement data based on the EU Air Quality Directives and the European Air Quality Index. Information on key indicators of the shared environmental information system is available on the webpage of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. An Air Quality Analysis Center was also established in June 2019, at the Khazar University.
The European Commission and the implementing partners look forward to continuing and strengthening their engagement with Azerbaijan under this new European Union support. Together they will strengthen the management of water resources and environmental data to benefit the environment and wellbeing of Azerbaijani citizens.
Mr Rainer Freud, Programme Manager at the Delegation of the European Union to Azerbaijan said: "A healthy environment is crucial for functioning of ecosystems and human wellbeing. In particular, the recent dry years and the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated the importance of water in the times of crisis. In the European Union, environmental and water policies are part of the main building blocks of the European Green Deal. Since 2016, the European Union through the EUWI+ and ENI SEIS II EAST programmes has supported Azerbaijan in strengthening its water sector as well as in developing concrete information systems. The adoption of the National Water Strategy and the sharing of produced data with the public are two crucial next steps for Azerbaijan. This project is also supporting the Government of Azerbaijan Action Plan on rational use of water resources in 2020-2022 and can help with prioritization of investment opportunities under the European Investment Plan for Azerbaijan".