The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed water body in the world and it is located on the border of Asia and Europe. Its shoreline extends for 5360 km.
Caspian Sea is divided between the independent countries of Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and home to myriad ecosystem.
The coastal wetlands of the Caspian basin include many shallow, saline pools, which attract a variety of bird life and biodiversity. Over 400 species are unique to the Caspian. The sturgeon is famous the world around for the roe is produces. Approximately 90% of the world’s Caviar comes from Caspian Sea. The region is booming more important from strategic point of view.
In the mid-1990s oil and Gas brought an influx of foreign investment in energy development in the region.
Petrochemical and refining complexes ion the Absheron peninsula in Azerbaijan are major sources of land –based pollution and discharges and spills from oil and gas drilling in the Sea and onshore have serious impacts on the environment.
The former Soviet Republics are trying to attract more investors in the oil and gas sectors.
This leads to the beginning of extraction works to the ecology of the Caspian basin.
Oil and gas extraction, along with transportation and industrial production has been the source of soil, air and water pollution in the Caspian region. The contamination from phenols, oil products particularly oil extraction and pipeline construction has contributed to the pollution of about 30,000 hectares of land.
Due to the use of outdated technology, malfunctioning equipment and pollution from oil fields and refineries continues at a high rate in the former Soviet Republic.
In Kazakhstan the cases of blood disease, tuberculosis and other diseases are four times more common in the Caspian area than the rest of the country’s average. Water, which has been contaminated by oil products in Kazakhstan, is still used for drinking water. This contamination is cited as a reason for intestinal infections in Kazakhstan’s coastal areas.
There is no doubt that development of the oil and gas industry does have the significant impacts to the environment.
The untreated waste from the Volga River –into which half the population of Russia and most of its heavy industry drains its sewage-empties into the Caspian Sea.
The chemicals and pesticides are threats to the flora and fauna. Since 2000 due to the pollution thousands of seals died in the Caspian Sea. The pollution has weakened their immune systems.
The Caspian sturgeon and Caspian seal, one of two freshwater spices in the world, have been dying in large number as a result of polluters and poachers since the collapse of the former Soviet Union. As recently in 1980’s and beginning 1990’s Iran and former Soviet countries fishermen took more than 30,000 tons of sturgeon. The Caspian is a self-contained body of water into which the Volga River drains after passing through Russia’s industrial heartland. 130 large and small rivers flow into the Caspian Sea, nearly all of which flow into the north or west coast. Volga River the largest splits into a thousand smaller streams as it flows through a largely uninhabited delta feeding into the Caspian Sea.
The Ural, Kura and Emba Rivers also empty contaminations into the Caspian from industrial pollution, municipal wastes and agricultural runoff.
The Caspian is an ecosystem under stress. Existing pollution has damaged marine terrestrial communities.
The entry of international oil firms into the Caspian region to exploit oil and gas reserves holds the prospect for improved environmental protection.
A World Bank report says that the great sturgeon has lost 99 percent of its spawning grounds and the Russian sturgeon, 80 percent, because of dam construction on the river that feed into the Caspian. Contamination by DDT used in agriculture could be another factor contributing to the disappearance of the Caspian sturgeon because it could be a cause of infertility in the fish.
The over fishing of Sturgeon has caused a dramatic decline in fish stocks. The number of commercial fish has considerably been reduced. Some fish species have been included into the red book. The Zander and the Caspian thorn fish have disappeared.
The Caspian seal is the smallest seal is native to the Caspian is classed as vulnerable by the international Union for the Conversation of Nature.
They are 17 spices in the red book of Azerbaijan. There are 120 species of fish in the Caspian with greatest commercial value (sturgeon, salmon, sprat, shad, carp).
The fishery industry is very important to Azerbaijan economy.
A lack of regional cooperation, highlighted by the still unresolved legal status of the Caspian Sea. Weak environmental laws and regulation and the ability to enforce them is affecting efforts to protect the Caspian’s environment.
Polluted beaches and coastlines mean that swimming in most areas of the Sea is hazardous. The higher rate of cancer is recorded in the area .In order to improve the environment in and around Caspian Sea the countries like Iran, Russia, and other need to work together and implementation of modern technology is required.
The Caspian Sea still has miles of undeveloped Coastline. Along the shore in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The south end of the sea is deep, dark and polluted from sewer pipes and factories drain from five littoral states. The air pollution from Tehran due to the old cars that lack catalytic converters falls out in the Caspian when the wind blows the smog north from Iran, contributing to pollution in the Caspian problem.
It is estimated those one million cubic meters of untreated industrial wastewater is discharged into the Caspian annually.
In the Azeri coastal City of Sumgayit during the Soviet era the environment was subjugated to industrial goals. Hundreds of thousands of tons toxic wastes each year released into the atmosphere or dumped into a creek that fed into the Caspian Sea. Now the pollution overwhelmed the sea around Sumgayit and Baku, creating a virtual dead zone. The area witnessed a dramatic rise in stillbirths and miscarriages. The untreated sewage is still dumped into the Caspian Sea.
Because of inadequately stored wastes the ground water is contaminated and the leakage into the Caspian Sea is likely. An important of Caspian Sea is its great diversity in different parts of the lake.
In some parts practically those adjoining river deltas, the lake water is fresh.
Biodiversity of the Caspian Sea increased after building the Volga-Don Canal opened in 1954. Fish and Crustacean in the Caspian Sea have the largest numbers of species, with 63% off all modern species.
Since 1978 the sea level has risen almost 7.4 feet. Unexpected flooding has caused lot of damages to residential areas. Due to the rise of water in Turkmenistan, the town of Darwish, which is detached from the western part of the mainland, is turning into an island and Cheleken and Karakul are sinking into the water as well. A six miles sewage pipeline in the Azeri coastal district of Azizbayov has been partially submerged by the rising water; causing the pump station they’re to malfunction and allowing sewage from the area to be discharged directly into the Sea. Up to 100,000 people in Coastal the spread of toxic wastes, contamination of water supplies, and loss of infrastructure due to the rising sea level have affected cities and towns in Azerbaijan alone.
In August 2001,Tengizchevron, the Chevron Texaco-led consortium developing the giant Tengiz oil field in western Kazakhstan, was fined $75 million for ecological damage.
Now in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan new development projects are required to carry environmental insurance. In the past the Kazakh government fined polluters but now it is prepared to make sue that criminal charges are brought against the management of the enterprises, which break the country’s environmental protection legislation.
The countries of the region have begun to take measures to prevent pollution.
The lack of regional cooperation among the Caspian Sea countries continued to undermine individual state efforts to protect the sea and surrounding region.
The challenge of protecting the Caspian’s environment will become more difficult.
Without increasing cooperation by the littoral countries, the country of the environment in the Caspian Sea and surrounding areas will remain threatened.
By Morteza Aminmansour@Pars Times