Experts Warn of "Catastrophic Flood" Threat Posed by Reservoir in Nagorno-Karabakh

Jun 10, 2013, 04:13 ET from Azerbaijan Monitor

BAKU, Azerbaijan, June 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

International engineers working in conjunction with the Turkish Water Department have mapped out a "catastrophic flood" scenario imposed by the dilapidated Sarsang Reservoir in Nagorno-Karabakh, which in the event of failure poses a threat to more than 400,000 people who live downstream.

The 125 metre high dam was built in 1976 and is long overdue for maintenance, which has allegedly not been carried out in the two decades of Armenian occupation. The Sarsang Reservoir was captured during the war with Azerbaijan over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990's.

Because of that lack of remedial attention, engineers and hydrologists from the firms Su-yapi, Chartis and the Turkish Water Department have modeled what would happen should the dam fail.

They have determined that in the event of collapse or sabotage, a wall of water up to 65 metre high, travelling at between 100 and 200km/h, would swamp the plains below and completely inundate 20 villages.

"Such a flood would be an absolute catastrophe," said a spokesman for the Azerbaijani Government, which commissioned the independent study.

"This is what happens when a reservoir containing 560 million cubic metres of water fails - and there is every chance of that happening given the fact Armenia has neglected all maintenance on the Sarsang dam in total defiance of international safety standards," he said.

Azerbaijan MP Elkhan Suleymanov, who campaigns on behalf of the victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh war, added: "Imagine if something goes wrong with that reservoir, the adjacent seven regions will be obliterated, blotted out from the earth. Meaning that up to 400,000 people are in imminent danger."

The study confirmed the path of the water would sweep along the Tartar riverbed and the effects would be felt 48 kilometers from the base of the dam. This chilling study is a reminder, says Azerbaijan, that the so-called frozen conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh is actually an occupation, which poses a variety of fast-evolving threats to the civilian population of Azerbaijan.

The war, fought in the late 1980s and early 1990s, displaced one million Azerbaijanis. Despite numerous resolutions by the United Nations, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Parliament, Armenia continues to occupy 20 percent of its neighbour's territory.

SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor