Javid Gara

Source: Personal photo

Caption: Javid Gara

Azerbaijani eco-activist: Contracts with companies felling forests should be terminated

"The Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources (MENR), headed by minister Mukhtar Babayev, has imposed tens of thousands of fines in exchange for millions of damage caused by deforestation in the regions."

That's what eco-activist Javid Gara thinks about the ministry's lack of protection for forests in Azerbaijan.

He says that the ministry does not terminate contracts with companies that grossly violate the terms of their lease agreements.

“However, these companies violated the terms of the agreement and carried out excavation work in the area. An example of this is the newly planted forest strip of more than 100 hectares near the village of Bideyiz in Sheki. The ministry insists on not terminating the AGA Group's lease for 500 hectares. They said they calculated a fine of 10,000 AZN (approx. 4894 EUR) for millions in damages instead.

The eco-activist says that if there were indeed fines, this should be the basis for the termination of the contract.

"In a candid conversation, they say they failed to do so. Official statements either do not exist or they support the company. We said we would fight to the end. If the MENR does not have the strength and political will to protect the forests from the greed of oligarchic businessmen, we will do everything necessary to protect our forests. There will be mass civil legal protests, hunger strikes, whatever you say. "

Javid Gara says that the struggle will continue until the contracts are canceled and the trees are restored in all degraded forest areas.

“Mukhtar Babayev, who allowed these actions, you have no conscience and no political will. But we've seen the lease agreement. The conditions there do not coincide with what happened. "

For the past few years, mass felling of trees in leased forest areas has been carried out in Sheki, Gakh and Gusar.

When trees were cut down in the Bideyiz and Baggal villages of Sheki last year, villagers told Meydan TV that they were against deforestation. The villagers even appealed to the relevant agencies, the Forest Department, the Sheki City Executive Power, as well as the MENR.

They asked the MENR take measures to prevent deforestation in the vicinity.

Residents say the name of the company operating in the area is Monte Forre LLC, and that the trees in these forests are mainly walnut, beech, oak, and pear.

AGA Group, the one referenced by Gara, was established in 1994, uniting companies operating in various fields.

It is owned by Caspian Plaza, Caspian Business Center, Demirchi Tower, AGA Business Center and Ariana Business Park.

Earlier, AGA Group confirmed to Meydan TV that Monte Ferro Agropark was their representative in the north-west, but said they did not know what was being done in the region.

Monte Ferro Agropark was established in 2016 and is implementing a project to plant a hazelnut orchard covering a large area in the Northwest region.

According to a cabinet decision, areas not covered with forest vegetation (trees, shrubs, semi-shrubs) can be leased only for the purpose of forest restoration, and the process should take place only in public, taking into account the interests of the local community, giving preference to privileged persons.

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