Environmentalists have staged a protest in front of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources in Baku. They cited ongoing deforestation and the long term lease — up to 49 years — of forest lands to private holders as the reason for the demonstration.
The protest was held on 6 July, and was organised by Ecofront, an Azerbaijani environmental NGO.
Before the demonstration, Ecofront posted a list of their demands on Facebook. These included the termination of a recent contract with the Beta Tea company to clear 43 hectares of forest land to create a tea plantation, the suspension of all excavation works on lands owned by the Azerbaijan Forest Fund, and the opening of all Forest Fund land lease agreements to the public.
At the protest, activists announced that they wanted to meet with the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources Mukhtar Babayev to convey all their demands. However, a ministry spokesperson told them that the meeting was not possible due to pandemic safety measures.
‘With this action, we are saying: stop cutting down trees and destroying nature’, Ecofront co-founder Javid Gara said in a live broadcast during the protest. ‘Otherwise, huge natural disasters await Azerbaijan.’ He also specifically placed blame on ‘oligarchs, officials and entrepreneurs’ for the ongoing deforestation.
The recent forest lease agreements are part of Azerbaijan’s Agro Park program, established on 16 April, 2014. According to the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, over 50 agro parks are planned to be established in the country.