Environmental issues in Azerbaijan
Severe pollution from heavy industries and agriculture has damaged the environment of Azerbaijan. The contamination of the Caspian Sea from oil drilling in Baku has been a problem since the 19th century, when the Russian Empire took control of the region and began to rapidly exploit its oil reserves. Although oil production waned during the Soviet period, petroleum waste was routinely dumped into the Caspian. The Caspian also suffers from the discharge of untreated sewage, and pollution has depleted the sea’s stocks of sturgeon. Severe air pollution is a problem in the major cities due to emissions from petroleum and chemical industries. During the Soviet period, dangerously high concentrations of pesticides and fertilizers were used to increase Azerbaijan’s agricultural output. In the late 1980s, when environmental awareness began to surface in the USSR, Azerbaijan’s high infant mortality rate and high rates of infectious diseases were linked to the chemicals used in cotton growing. Although the people of Azerbaijan are generally aware of the need to protect the environment, the republic’s environmental issues have not received significant attention from the government.