UN: Environmental issues could worsen conflicts in southern Caucasus

UN News Center
Oct 22 2004

Environmental issues could worsen conflicts in southern Caucasus – UN

22 October 2004 – Environmental degradation and competition for
natural resources could sharpen disputes in areas of the southern
Caucasus already mired in conflicts, warns a United Nations report
released today in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi.

The militarized situation in such places as Abkhazia, South Ossetia,
Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent regions of Azerbaijan also hampers
waste management and disposal, and the maintenance and renovation of
irrigation and hydroelectric dams, leading to stifled economic
growth, according to the report, Environment and Security:
Transforming Risks into Cooperation – The Case of the Southern

Prepared by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment
Programme (UNEP), the study examines both the negative affect of
conflict in the region as well as the opportunities environmental
issues present for cooperation and confidence building.

Access to natural resources in conflict areas, management of
cross-border environmental problems and the rapid development of the
capital cities of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are some of the
concerns highlighted in the new report, part of a wider effort called
the Environment and Security Initiative, run jointly by OSCE, UNEP
and UNDP.

The report finds that the quality and mechanisms for sharing
transboundary water resources – both surface and underground, and
including the Caspian and Black Seas – are key concerns for all three
countries, as is the disposal of abandoned Soviet weapons, chemicals
and reclamation of contaminated lands.

`The assessment demonstrated that in the worst case, environmental
stress and change could undermine security in the three South
Caucasian countries,’ said Frits Schlingemann, Director of UNEP’s
Regional Office for Europe.

`However, sound environmental management and technical cooperation
could also be a means for strengthening security while promoting
sustainable development if the three Governments would decide to do
so,’ he added.