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Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture
The main institutions involved in water management are all state institutions. They are:
the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, which has overall responsibility for the conservation of water resources and the prevention of pollution. It issues wastewater discharge permits, which are valid for 3–5 years. Its regional offices control and enforce discharge permits;
the Committee on Ecology and Nature Use, which is in charge of monitoring salinization and water pollution;
the State Committee on Amelioration and Water Management, which is responsible for monitoring water use and for issuing permits for surface water. It also levies charges for water use. The committee’s activities concern mainly irrigation, for which it sets rules on water use and handles public relations. It is also in charge of land improvement on irrigated land and the operation and maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure;
the Ministry of Health, whose Centre for Epidemiology and Hygiene is responsible for monitoring drinking water quality.
The rehabilitation of irrigation and drainage systems to ensure the sustainability of the subsector remains a priority. Major policy changes in land ownership and irrigation management play an important role in improving irrigation performance.
Control of erosion is another major issue as, according to the Ecological Committee’s data, this problem affects almost 43 percent of the country. Effective measures to combat water erosion are the creation of a wood belt to protect fields, as well as wood belts along the banks of large rivers, canals and reservoirs.
There are several problems affecting the irrigation infrastructure (UNECE, 2004). They include:
deterioration of infrastructure and pumping equipment due to insufficient maintenance;
heavy reliance on pumped irrigation, which in many instances would make agriculture uneconomic if the energy were valued at its real cost;
negligible contribution from users to operation and maintenance expenses;
inefficient water distribution and application.
As a result of recent efforts to improve the situation, institutional mechanisms have been established for the collection and use of water charges and the transfer of responsibility to water users. It is estimated that 40–45 percent of the irrigation infrastructure is in need of renovation. The inefficient use of water and the heavy water losses in irrigation represent major problems for water resources and soils.
Since 1997 water used for agricultural purposes is chargeable. Rates were changed in June 2003. The fee is charged for technical-operational costs and not for the use of water as a natural resource.
Charges on wastewater discharge were also introduced in 1992. The rates are very low, as is the collection rate, making the charge system less effective (UNECE, 2004).
The Presidential Decree of 23 October 2004 authorized the establishment of a public corporation “Agroleasing” and a series of measures to develop leasing in the agricultural sector. It was decided to provide AZM100 billion and 150 billion from the state budget in 2005 and 2006 for Agroleasing’s activities (Heydar Aliyev Foundation. 2008).
Policies and legislation
The water sector is regulated by the following legislation:
The Water Code (1997)
The Law on Water Supply and Wastewater (1999)
The Law on Amelioration and Irrigation (1996)
The Law on Environmental Protection (1999)
The Water Code is the basis for water management in Azerbaijan and sets out the following main principles for use and protection:
economic development and environmental protection;
provision of the population with quality water;
water management to be based on river basins;
water protection functions to be separate from water use and water industry functions.
The Law on Water Supply and Wastewater sets the legal framework for this sector.
The Law on Amelioration and Irrigation regulates the planning, design, construction and operation of amelioration and irrigation systems. Accordingly, design and construction activities require special permits (licences) and systems have to be certified with technical passports.
The Law on Environmental Protection identifies the legal, economic and social bases of environmental protection. It governs the use of natural resources, amongst which water, and protection against domestic and industrial pollution. The Law also sets the basis for economic mechanisms, such as payment for the use of natural resources and for the disposal of domestic and industrial waste and economic incentives for environmental protection.
In July 1996, a land reform law was adopted by the National Assembly (Milli Majlis), establishing private property rights to land. The land is to be transferred to all rural inhabitants free of charge. It can then be sold freely, exchanged, transferred by right of succession, leased or used as mortgage security.
In November 2003, the presidential decree “On intensification of the socio-economic development in the Republic of Azerbaijan” envisioned the start of the second stage of the agrarian reforms and the accomplishment of appropriate activities. It has been followed up by the state programme for socio-economic development of the regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan (2004-2008), adopted on 11 February 2004. The implementation of the programme will create the opportunities for radical changes and wider business development in agriculture. Among other activities, the state programme will restore agricultural processing enterprises, establish new production enterprises, increase the efficiency of local resources, build or modernize the infrastructure for regional development, step up the second stage of agrarian reforms, establish technical service centres in the region, and extend seed depots and other important activities (Heydar Aliyev Foundation. 2008).