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Preservation of environment is the reflection of the country`s policy, culture

Interview with  Minister of ecology and natural resources of the Republic of Azerbaijan Huseyngulu Baghirov

Under an Executive Order signed by President Ilham Aliyev on May 16, 2007, May 23 is celebrated as the professional holiday of the workers of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Azerbaijan. As the President said celebrative events are an analysis of the work done and is very important in terms of defining further tasks. From this standpoint the analysis of the work done in recent years by ministerecology and natural resources of the Republic of Azerbaijan Huseyngulu Baghirov is of particular significance.

Q: Mr. Baghirov, economy is the core of development in any area. Economy plays a crucial role in work carried out in the field of environment. We would like you to have a look at Azerbaijan`s economic development.

A: Azerbaijan has managed to preserve the dynamic pace of development. Our country is moving forward successfully in all areas. Let`s look at the country`s achievements in the first quarter of this year alone. The economy grew by 2.5 per cent. I believe that this is a good indicator. The structure of our gross domestic product is also improving. Of course, the main indicator reflecting our economic development in recent years has been the performance of the non-oil sector. As was the case last year, we have managed to achieve rapid development in this area this year too.

Incomes of the population have increased by 4.5 per cent. Inflation is only at 2 per cent. Thus, the incomes of the population, as always, exceed the inflation more than twice. And it is also a key condition for addressing social problems of our people. At the same time, it shows that economic and social reforms in Azerbaijan are conducted in the right direction because fundamental economic reforms should also be underpinned by very serious social programs.

Last year, our non-oil sector grew by 10 per cent, while in the first quarter of this year by a further 8.8 per cent. Of course, this growth is a result of the reforms carried out in Azerbaijan in recent years. The policies conducted in the field of economy have brought about the present realities.

The ongoing reforms are evaluated by leading international financial institutions. The credit ratings of Azerbaijan are growing. Even in the crisis years three major rating agencies raised the credit ratings of Azerbaijan. According to the calculations of the world’s top economic institution – the Davos World Economic Forum, the Azerbaijani economy is ranked 39thin the world in terms of competitiveness. This is also a result of the reforms ongoing in Azerbaijan.

I would also like to stress the importance of the state programs on the socioeconomic development of regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

As a result of the implementation of two programs, industrial production has grown 2.7 times. Whereas in the first years of the program our economy and industry grew largely on the account of the oil sector, the successful development of our country in recent years has been provided by the non-oil sector. It is no coincidence that last year non-oil sector growth made up almost 10 per cent. This is also one of the highest indicators in the world.

As President Ilham Aliyev said: “In the next five years we will have sufficient economic, financial and technical resources to successfully implement the third program.”
At the Cabinet meeting dedicated to the results of socioeconomic development in the first quarter of 2014 and objectives for the future, President Ilham Aliyev said: “At the same time, our strong financial status preconditions our independent policy, because an economically free and independent country can speak its word in the international arena more confidently. In short, our main economic parameters are very positive. This allows us the opportunity to be optimistic of the future. I am sure that this growth rate will be maintained for the rest of the year and we will complete 2014 with great success.”

Q: Ensuring environmental security is one of the priorities in the state policy. Please, highlight what has been done on this front?

A: National leader Heydar Aliyev placed a particular emphasis to solving the issues related to the country`s environment and natural resources. The national leader took important measures to strengthen the protection of environment in 1969-1982. The total area of greenery in Azerbaijan was increased to 17,000 hectares in the 1970s under national leader Heydar Aliyev. The national leader signed 8 laws and more than 30 resolutions related to environment and natural resources.

President Ilham Aliyev, who is successfully continuing socio-economic policy of national leader Heydar Aliyev, attaches particular emphasis to solving environmental problems.

Protection of the environment, ensuring life in a healthy natural environment, efficient use of natural resources for improving welfare of the citizens are part of social and economic reforms implemented in Azerbaijan.  The fact that the President of Azerbaijan places a constant emphasis on ecological and environmental issues has significantly amplified activities implemented in the area of improving environmental conditions and enabled successful realization of a number of large projects, some of which are continuing.

A large number of activities has been carried out by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. These activities focused on increasing efficiency of activities aimed at resolution of ecological problems, prevention of further ecological issues and facilitating effective solutions for shortcomings that have occurred.

In 2003 the country adopted National sustainable development program, which provided for a series of measures towards strengthening the protection of environment in the country.

Preserving the biodiversity is one of the key priorities for the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. We improved the preserved lands across the country, and expanded their total area two-fold. The last such project is the Shahdagh National Park, which was established by a decree of the President in 2006.

A 2006-2010 complex Plan of Action made a great contribution to solving environmental problems in the country, in particular strengthening the protection of environment in Baku and Absheron peninsula.

Currently, consistent measures are being taken in the area of resolving pressing environmental problems based on sustainable development principles within the framework of relevant state programs.  Hence, implementation of activities as part of programs “on Environmentally Sustainable Social and Economic Development” and “On Efficient Utilization of Summer-Winter Pastures and Hayfields and Prevention of Desertification,” as endorsed by the President of Azerbaijan, has continued.

In regards to implementation of “Complex Activity Plan for 2006-2010 on Improvement of Ecological Situation in the Republic of Azerbaijan,” a number of projects are successfully implemented.  Technical Economic Substantiation has been developed for improving ecological situation around the International Airport named after Heydar Aliyev and activities have started to plant trees, rehabilitation of natural landscape, and establishment of a recreational park after Sadarak and Bina Trade Centres have been moved.

In regards to implementation of Decrees “On Planting Trees on Protection Strips of Automobile Highways” and “On Additional Measures on Planting Trees in Baku City” during the reporting period, 90 % efficiency was achieved due to constant care with growth of 172,000 trees and shrubs planted on Alat-Hajigabul highway during previous years for improving aesthetic view of highways and maintaining protection strips.

Large scale activities are being implemented in reference to the initiative of the President of Azerbaijan on planting three million trees in Baku and its surroundings.  In this regard, various sites have been identified in different parts of Absheron Peninsula and projects have been developed for Bayil Slope – 20th Field, Zigh Lake-Heydar Aliyev Airport, Zigh Lake and its surroundings, as well as surroundings of Sangachal Terminal.

I would also like to emphasize “Plant a tree” campaign initiated by president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Mehriban Aliyeva, which saw the planting of millions of trees and bushes.

In addition, I would like to praise the role of vice-president of the Foundation Leyla Aliyeva, who launched International Dialogue for Environmental Protection campaign.

Based on Decrees “On Certain Measures for Improving Provision of the Population with Ecologically Clean Potable Water,” activities aimed at providing remotest settlements in the country which lack centralized clean water with safe and potable water as soon as possible.  Within the framework of the Program, in 2007-2012, activities were completed in 122 villages of 12 regions which contributed to provision of 224,000 persons with high quality potable water.  Additionally, activities aimed at constructing module water purification equipment in 62 villages of 18 regions. Some 60 of the equipment that was constructed are operational.

Q:You are about to celebrate your professional holiday. What is your vision of the future given your current achievements?

A: Surely, we have a lot to do. One of our key priorities is to promote our achievements on the international scale. And I should say that we have already achieved important results in this area.

In 2012, Azerbaijan ranked second in the world for the activities over the past ten years in the field of environmental protection,

The document assessed 132 countries on two directions: the ecological situation in the country and the results of activities of the last ten years relating to the environmental protection.According to the document, Azerbaijan ranks first in the area to reduce diseases associated with the environment.

Azerbaijan also achieved success in the evaluation related to forests, on all three components - the situation of forest resources, changes in forest cover and forest loss, according to the index of the situation of the environment and ecological development indicators showed the highest score and ranked first among 132 countries.

According to the assessment Azerbaijan also ranked first in terms of the activity in recent years under "climate change" paragraph and 67th on the current situation.

The Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources has mobilized its efforts to ensure the fulfillment of new tasks set by the Head of State.