Text by Lala Aliyeva
Springs being restored by local villagers in Duzbiliji, Shabran. The village was once surrounded by several springs, but most have fallen into disrepair. According to Amirdjan Gardashov, 68, the local population lacked both the resources and skills to maintain them or to build new springs. It’s estimated that 40–45 percent of the irrigation infrastructure is in need of renovation.
Duzbiliji was once located on much higher ground, but around the beginning of the 20th century residents began moving closer to the river to work in irrigation. The last resident of the old village left in 1956. The municipality created an artificial lake for the area, but the lake was never properly filled and later dried up. As a result, villagers have struggled to grow their own crops and have resorted to bringing in products from other villages.
Locals grow wheat in the mountains with the help of dryland farming, an agricultural technique for non-irrigated cultivation. The persistent problems with the village’s irrigation system has made this type of agriculture increasingly important.
The part of the Devechi River that runs through Duzbiliji started to dry up in the 1970s, and the villagers are no longer able to use it for irrigation. The river flows with sufficient water from November-April each year, but then runs dry during the times of the year that are important for planting vegetables. Strangely, the river flows well enough in surrounding villages to offer irrigation, but not in Duzbiliji.
The villagers here mostly hope for rain. The continued lack of rainfall throughout the country has led to numerous rivers gradually drying up. The resulting water shortages pose problems for both residents and the country’s agricultural industry; a drought last year destroyed crops in several regions. The impact also extends to cattle farming and, consequently, the production of dairy products. Most residents in Duzbiliji rely on cattle for their livelihood, and no rain means no grass to feed their cows.
An expert in the field of agriculture Vahid Maharramov, explains that the Melioration and Water Stock Company is responsible for collection rainwater for both irrigation and the production of drinking water. In more developed countries, samples of rainwater are collected and tested. If the collected water doesn’t meet certain standards it cannot be used, even for irrigation. However, this process is not followed in Azerbaijan.
Maharramov also states that Azerbaijan wastes more water than any other CIS country. Every year around 35% of usable water in Azerbaijan is wasted.
The World Resources Institute previously released a report warning that Azerbaijan is in danger of a serious drought by 2040. On the WRI’s list of 33 drought-prone countries, Azerbaijan is in 18th place, between Macedonia and Morocco.