Azerbaijan: Communities located near gas & oil fields suffer from air & water pollution, other human rights abuses, says NGO report; includes company comments

“Submission to the UPR Review of Azerbaijan (3rd cycle) concerning the rights of communities affected by hydrocarbon development in Azerbaijan” drafted by Crude Accountability claims that communities located near extraction sites for natural gas and oil in Azerbaijan are lacking access to basic human rights, including: right to health, water, sanitation, adequate food, housing, and right to education.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited the companies that operate the gas & oil fields mentioned in the Submission to respond. SOCAR did not respond. BP responded. Crude Accountability later issued a rejoinder to BP’s response. BP responded to the rejoinder. 

Materials with full information and the rejoinder, responses & non-responses are below.

 

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Company response
17 May 2018

BP's response to Crude Accountability rejoinder

Author: BP

...As a responsible operator BP has a policy, procedures and agreed processes and mechanisms in place with regard to engaging with all of its neighbouring communities including with the communities of the settlements close to the Sangachal terminal and responding to concerns and grievances as they arise...Before we start any major project, we engage with stakeholders and conduct detailed environmental and social impact assessments (ESIAs) in affected areas and communities in order to be able to take all necessary action to avoid, eliminate where possible or minimize the impacts from our business. This has been the case with our ongoing project - Shah Deniz 2, where we started engagement and consultations with the communities well before the project early works commenced. The project conducted a Stakeholder and Socio-Economic Survey which informed the ESIA and associated plans and involved 200 household surveys in Umid, Sangachal, Azim Kend and Massiv 3, 12 focus groups and 66 interviews with key stakeholders. Following the initial consultation, the project held ESIA disclosure meetings in 2013 and has regularly met with communities to share updates on project activities and respond to questions and grievances...We have an established grievance resolution mechanism for communities living in our neighbourhood. Our policy is to register and acknowledge community grievances within seven days, and address them within 30 days...

Download the full document here

NGO rejoinder
2 May 2018

Crude Accountability rejoinder to BP's response

Author: Crude Accountability

...Crude Accountability has reached out to community members in four settlements affected by Shah Deniz II- Umid, Sangachal, Massive III and Ezimkend—and not one person mentioned meaningful consultations since 2011. According to our data, BP representatives who came to the communities in 2011 promised jobs, gave presents to the residents, and then were never heard from again. We invite BP to hold meaningful community consultations in all four settlements, where problems and opportunities for moving forward can be discussed...Crude Accountability can assist BP in this process to ensure that all voices are represented...Community concerns regarding the environment near Shah Deniz II are alarming.  The four settlements are located roughly 2-4 km away from the terminal. Their proximity to the terminal makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of hazardous waste and pollution. Residents complain that a couple of times a month, in the morning, the air is filled with yellow, sulfur smelling smoke...People report physiological symptoms when these are the conditions.  Does BP conduct regular ambient air quality monitoring in these settlements or the surrounding areas? If so, we request that BP make public the monitoring data from the past 2 years...With the villages only 2-4 kilometers away from the Sangachal terminal, we are concerned about soil or water contamination, and impacts on subsistence agriculture in these villages. Has BP been monitoring soil or water quality near the Sangachal terminal to ensure that its activities do not lead to contamination? If so, we would welcome those records from the past 2 years being made public...Despite these unfortunate events, BP continues to do business as usual in Azerbaijan, operating its vast oil and gas reserves without the EITI platform ensuring accountability. Since Azerbaijan left EITI, BP extended its contract with the Azerbaijani state oil firm SOCAR to develop the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshly (ACG) off-shore oil fields until 2050. In June 2017, Crude Accountability and 23 other international civil society organizations sent a letter to BP and other Consortium members requesting that the renegotiation of the contract for the ACG fields be a participatory process with civic input and consultations . Unfortunately, we have never received a reply to our letter. Instead, the BP-led Consortium extended the contract in September 2017, without any transparency or input from concerned stakeholders.  We request that BP work with the government of Azerbaijan to immediately publish the contract. Further, we urge BP to call upon Azerbaijan to rejoin EITI and make meaningful progress towards the Civil Society Standard. 

Download the full document here

Report
11 April 2018

Submission to the UPR Review of Azerbaijan (3rd cycle) concerning the rights of communities affected by hydrocarbon development in Azerbaijan

Author: Crude Accountability

...[T]he villages located near the extraction sites for natural gas and oil are severely impoverished, lacking access to the most fundamental social and economic rights, including: right to health, water, sanitation, adequate food, housing, and right the to education. This Submission to the Universal Periodic Review will address the rights enshrined in Articles 11, 12, and 13 of the ICESCR for 8 villages impacted by oil and gas exploration in Azerbaijan: Balakhany, Bibiheybet, Gala, Ramana, Sangechal, Massive III, Ezimkend, and Umid...Most villagers interviewed from the Sangechal, Massive III, Ezimkend, and Umid settlements near the Shah Deniz gas extraction site complain about air quality. Massive III villagers specifically noted a yellow dust that accumulates on window screens, coming from the gas terminal. Villagers in Sangachal reported a marked deterioration in air quality after the gas terminal was built. A noxious, sulfurous odor is noticed particularly at night, accompanied by visible smoke coming from the terminal...Lack of access to clean drinking water is a central concern of residents from Balakhany, Bibiheybet, Gala, Ramana villages. All four villages lack clean drinking water, and, as a villager from Bibiheybet said, “It is difficult to find a single person who does not complain about their kidneys.” Villagers cite kidney problems as the main widespread health issue arising from drinking the available water. Another respondent from Bibiheybet said that every member of her family suffers from kidney stones, and attributes this to the fact that the water available is full of debris, and according to reports, causes illness.

Download the full document here

Company response
10 April 2018

Response by BP

Author: BP

BP has been involved in Azerbaijan for more than 25 years with a strong commitment to conducting a safe, reliable, environmentally and socially responsible business that benefits all our stakeholders, most importantly the communities living in our neighbourhood. Social responsibility is a core part of everything BP does in Azerbaijan and elsewhere in the world.  Therefore, before we start any major project we conduct detailed environmental and social impact assessments in affected areas and communities in order to be able to take all necessary action to avoid, eliminate where possible or minimize the impacts from our business...We have an established grievance resolution mechanism for communities living in our neighbourhood. Our policy is to register and acknowledge community grievances within seven days, and address them within 30 days. The registration and response to community grievances and requests are managed by our community liaison officers whose job is to engage with the communities on a day-to-day basis.  This has enabled both parties to constructively address concerns and resolve disagreements helping maintain open dialogues and build strong, mutually beneficial working relationships...Our social investment projects in Azerbaijan have to date delivered a positive and enduring impact on the communities improving their livelihoods and helping them build their future. We will continue our social investment activity through educational programmes, building skills and capabilities in local communities, improving access to social infrastructure in communities, supporting local enterprises, providing access to quality training and overall capacity-building. 

Download the full document here

Company non-response
10 April 2018

SOCAR did not respond