The dam holding the 12km-long Sarsang lake is in critical conditions, conference in Vienna heard

Azerbaijan Sarsang Reservoir dam threatens to burst

The dilapidated dam of the Sarsang Reservoir in Armenia-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh is in danger of bursting, endangering the lives of 400,000 people.

The 125m-high dam, that holds back a 12km long lake, was built under Azerbaijani authority in 1976. However, it hasn’t been given essential maintenance since the Armenian occupation started two decades ago and is now, according to local engineers and hydrologists, in an ‘emergency condition’ prone to structural failure or malicious attack.

"Sarsang reservoir has currently become a serious source of threat," said Azerbaijan MP Elkhan Suleymanov at a conference in Vienna entitled The Geopolitics of Azerbaijan and European Energy Security. "Obviously, any accident will result in both ecological crisis and mass casualties of civilians and humanitarian crisis."

According to Italy’s former vice-minister of trade and industry Adolfo Urso, the situation bears certain resemblance to that of the Vajont Dam, some 100km north of Venice, Italy, which resulted in a terrible disaster in 1963 after the dam over-topped, killing more than 2,000 people.

"With insufficient maintenance and repairs it will become a threat to mankind and the international community must turn its attention to these problems," Urso said.

The situation is further complicated by the ongoing aggression of Armenia who, despite resolutions of the UN, the Council of Europe and the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), continues to occupy 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory.

During the conference, Azerbaijan's Energy Minister Natig Aliyev spoke also about the pending decision that a consortium of energy companies will have to make in the near future regarding which one of the two proposed pipelines will be built to bring natural gas to Europe from the Shah Deniz II natural-gas field.

Shah Deniz, the largest natural gas field in Azerbaijan situated in the South Caspian Sea might be connected with Europe either through the Nabucco pipeline that is designed to run through the Balkans to Austria or the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) via Greece and Italy.The project now faces completion date as late as 2018.

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