Getting Clean Water Flowing in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan

Feature | 18 October 2011

Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic is part of Azerbaijan but isolated from the main part of country, being surrounded by Armenia and Iran. The enclave is home to around 400,000 people. Nakhchivan, which means "place where Noah came from", is isolated from Azerbaijan proper, with no road or rail connections. But there are direct flights between Nakchivan and Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia disrupted all land transport links between Azerbaijan and the Autonomous Republic.

Due to the isolation from the main territory of Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan faces many challenges including the provision of security, power, food and drinking water. Nakhchivan has always had to rely on its own resources and assistance from the government of Azerbaijan.

With the help of the Azerbaijan government, Nakhchivan generates electricity and has modernized the electricity grid, enabling it to supply domestic and industrial needs, and to sell the surplus to Iran and Turkey. However, the government has yet to tackle drinking water problems. The water intake and distribution pipelines are obsolete with high losses and the supply is not reliable. The water quality is also poor.

Ordinary people are suffering, but they now can look forward to a better drinking water supply in two years time. After thorough due diligence, ADB has decided to help finance rehabilitation of the water supply and sanitation network in the capital Nakchivan. The financing consists of a series of loans aimed at improving the quality and coverage of water and sanitation services for about 70,000 people in the city.

ADB will provide about $630 million under a project loan and a financing facility for the entire program. Nakchivan has received about $ 28 million and will receive another $ 130 million to complete the entire system.

Work on the improved water supply has been progressing well under Asgar Asgarov, Chairman of the State Committee for Amelioration and Water Management of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Three reservoirs of 25,000 m3 capacity have been constructed. Around 22 kilometers of water pipelines have been built to carry water from the intake to the distribution substation in Nakhchivan city. In addition, the water distribution and sanitation system is being modernized and the water purification system is to be constructed as well.

Although the construction work is ongoing, the water supply side is complete and residents of Nakhchivan city now enjoy a 24-hours supply of water. Once the entire system is finished, they will have a better quality and more efficient water delivery.

Mr. Asgarov has big plans: once he's finished with the capital, he plans to do the same for other towns in the Republic. He understands that the project is not just about delivering water, but more importantly water that is clean to promote public health and reduce disease. The project also creates permanent and temporary jobs for local people. This is part of the real change that ADB is bringing to the lives of ordinary people in this isolated corner of Western Asia.