By Faranak Bakhtiari

Armenia should be more responsible for polluting Aras River

November 23, 2019 - 20:20

TEHRAN – Release of industrial pollutants by Armenia into the transboundary Aras River has raised many concerns in northwestern provinces of Iran. The neighboring country should take urgent measures on elimination of pollution in the river.

Stretching to 1,072 kilometers, Aras River is one of the largest rivers in the Caucasus, and one of the most important rivers in Iran which besides attracting tourism and positive ecosystem effects, has important potential for fishing.

The river has become a source of pollution posing threats to people’s lives residing northwestern part of the country due to the flow of heavy metals out of the Armenian factories over the past decade.

This is while, Iranian authorities are avoiding to file a complaint for the sake of maintaining good bilateral ties. However, the issue should be tackled whether by agreements between the two countries or international interference.

Heavy metals flowing into Aras River

An agricultural researcher, Ahmad Baybordi, told IRNA on Saturday that there are remnants of heavy metals in the river without a doubt. 

Citing over a decade of Aras water pollution as a result of the wastewater inflow from Armenia, he said that the University of Medical Sciences asked me to conduct a water and sediment monitoring study at the Aras River 4 years ago. 

The University of Tabriz and the Ministry of Agriculture research center at that time discovered the contamination of Aras River with heavy metals based on the analysis of monitoring carried out, he said.

He went on to lament that while the Ardabil provincial water company had also conducted monitoring over water, soil and aquatic species in the river, and the results showed that the river was contaminated with heavy metals.

Pointing out that conservatism is not allowed when it comes to public health, he added that Aras contamination is a scientific and environmental issue that must be scientifically investigated and declared.

Last year, we started a project with university students residing in a village on the outskirts of Aras to monitor water and sediment in the river, he noted, adding, the project was carried out in two areas before Nordoz (as pollution-free areas) and after Nordoz (as polluted areas) and the findings showed the heavy metal contamination.

Aluminum, copper, iron and arsenic have been found in the river which were 10 times the safe limits, he regretted.

He further said that I have closely watched the activity of Armenian factories, adding “I would definitely say that the industrial effluent flows into Aras and the color of water is turning green because of the high concentration of heavy metal.

Polluting transboundary rivers, contrary to international conventions

Hamid Ghasemi, East Azarbaijan's department of environment chief, said: “We are obliged to submit a report on Aras River contamination, however, the debate should be followed up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

Pointing out that no pollutants should enter into the Aras River due to the environmental standards, he said that the regional water company as the main body responsible for transboundary rivers, claims that due to the high water flow in Aras River, contamination of the river appears to be negligible; while releasing even small amounts of pollutants is condemned by the international conventions.

“We are a regional partner of the responsible body for transboundary rivers, so we have consistently monitored and stated that Armenian side of Aras River is violating international protocols and conventions.”

Aras River’s pollution is not sourced by Iranian industrial units that we can shut them down in compliance with environmental law; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must file a complaint, and the Ministry of Energy should follow it up seriously, he explained.

Pollutants following into the river from Armenia are copper and molybdenum, and as heavy metals get accumulated in the soil and consequently in plants and are transmitted to the human body, he lamented.

So, the neighboring country needs to fix the problem as soon as possible, he emphasized.

 Aras contamination, a national issue

Mohammad Hassannejad, a member of the Iranian Parliament, also criticized the pollution of Aras River due to the industrial wastewater coming from Armenia.

The issue of wastewater and pollution in the river is a national issue, not related only to East Azarbaijan and the surrounding cities, so it needs a national attention, he highlighted.

He further called on the media to support the precious natural resource and raise awareness of such important problem.

 Armenia pledgeds to eliminate pollutants in Aras River 

East Azarbaijan regional water company director, Yousef Ghafarzadeh, also announced that Armenian authorities' commitment to completely eliminate pollutants in the river by the next three years.

At a recent joint task force meeting, the Armenian side pledged to impose strict monitoring on the operation of the industrial units until completion of the restoration operations, he explained.

Annual meeting of the joint working group of Iran and Armenia was held in Tabriz on November 19-21, in which monitoring and preventing pollution in transboundary Aras River have been addressed.

He went on to say that threats, concentration and impact of the pollutants have been precisely identified so far and Armenia has accepted responsibility and commitment to repair and refurbish the facilities with the aim of completely removing the pollution by 2021.

To do so, a recycling system will be set up and dams will be repaired by Armenia, which have so far developed by 50 percent, he stated.

“On the other hand, monitoring of water and sediment in the river has been done jointly over the past decade and will continue on a monthly and continuous basis,” he concluded.

FB/MG


 

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