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

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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.

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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. 

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Company non-response
10 April 2018

SOCAR did not respond