CASPIAN SEA CHALLENGES

Environmental challenges

The Caspian Sea is currently facing some dramatic environmental challenges. There are numerous problems associated with its shelf areas, which are particularly aggravated by formation of several dead areas.

In some areas the permissible contamination norm is exceeded in 10-20 times. The Caspian Sea is polluted from several sources. All of them can be divided into the following groups: 1) pollutants brought into the sea by rivers; 2) industrial and civil wastes brought to the Sea from industrial facilities and coastal resident areas; 3) pollutants brought as a result of oil production and its transportation; 4) contamination from onshore sources invaded as a result of sea level rise. Dominant contamination occurs from pollutants brought into the Sea by rivers. For example, recently acquired data indicates that rivers annually bring 75 th tons of oil products of which 95% fall upon the Volga River run-off. In view of the fact that there is no multilateral agreement related to the Caspian Sea environmental protection between the near Caspian countries, poaching in the Caspian Sea is actually thriving. Both contamination and poaching increment, along with fish fry breading facilities productivity deterioration made the chance of many fish species survival, particularly, sturgeon species, very problematic.

Sea level fluctuation challenges

Sea level fluctuation always causes social, economic and environmental problems within the coastal areas. For example, in case with sea level drop all shallow water facilities including seaports are forced to be rebuild. The Sea level drop also decreases shelf areas that serve as sanctuaries for marine fauna and hampers for fish migration upstream the rivers into spawning ground. This also leads to negative consequences in terms of hydrometeorology conditions. In cases of sea level rise when rivers invade over residential sites and agriculture areas that also leads to significant material and social-economic problems when environmental conditions deteriorate creating swamping areas. For example, during 1978-1995 2.5m sea level rise led to "emerging environmental refugees" within Azerbaijan coastal area. Azerbaijan Republic endured severe damages estimated as much as US$ 2B caused by the see level rise.

Caspian Sea status challenge

Some time earlier Caspian Sea was a bordering sea between two countries. Since 1991 when Soviet Union collapsed, five independent countries emerged around the Caspian Sea that actually resulted in a new geopolitical situation. Owing to different points of view of the States around the Caspian Sea, its status has not been resolved hitherto. Azerbaijan politics suggest that Caspian basin should be referred to as an International inland lake and its water surface have to be divided into five sectors based on median line principles. Kazakhstan authorities consider Caspian Sea as International inland sea (Russian Federation stands approximately at the same position), and therefore its bottom surface should be divide into sectors, respectively. However, two mentioned States differs on the point how to divide basin's water body. Iran Islamic Republic first considered that the Caspian Sea has to be owned by all five countries, that is, Iran proposed condomimium version. Later on, Iran has proposed an idea to divide the Caspian Sea into 20% share sectors between five countries around the Caspian Sea. However, such a proposal has no scientific, no political basis, and has never been proposed before.

Seismicity

The Caspian Sea occupies quite active area in terms of seismicity. In 1895 a strong earthquake occurred in Krasnovodsk. Its power was estimated by Rihter scale as 8.2 points of magnitudes (whereas on 12 point scale even as 11-12points). Some geoscientiests consider that extensive hydrocarbon exploration and production accelerate tectonic plates motion rates and induces seismic activity.

Moreover, mud volcanoes eruptions frequently occur in the Caspian Sea. Most of the mud volcanoes are located within Baku archipelago area. Here, almost all islands and shoals are mud volcanoes driven.