Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

In a clearing between overgrown grasses in Agdam, Azerbaijan, Khalid Zulfugarov uncovers crates filled with bright metal chunks glinting in the winter sun. Shells, anti-tank mines, and cluster bombs are scattered around as relics of a conflict that has spanned 30 years. Zulfugarov, the head of an Azerbaijani mine disposal team, sifts through the contaminated soil with sniffer dogs and metal detectors, recalling memories of his birthplace in Karabakh. Nuzgar, his ancestral village, lies 50 miles south of Agdam, where he is currently working to clear the land.

Once a peaceful settlement on the fertile lowlands of the southern Caucasus, Nuzgar was home to both Armenians and Azeris before the outbreak of conflict in Karabakh. As tensions escalated, the entire Azeri population of Karabakh was forced to flee, leaving behind the graves of those lost during the 1990s war in Agdam.

For three decades, Nagorno-Karabakh was governed by an ethnic Armenian administration as the Republic of Artsakh. The region’s landscape was scarred by abandoned Azeri towns, barbed wire, and land mines. In 2020, Azerbaijan launched a successful offensive to recapture the territory, leading to the end of the Republic of Artsakh.

As Zulfugarov continues his work in clearing the land, he reflects on the toll that war has taken on the environment. The once-lush landscapes of Karabakh have been stripped of life, with pomegranate trees standing as a reminder of the past. The ongoing conflict has also impacted the region’s water sources, with disputes over the control of the Sarsang reservoir.

Environmental misinformation surrounding the conflict has further complicated the situation, with accusations of forest fires being weaponized by both sides. Despite the cease-fire and the presence of Russian and Turkish peacekeepers, the environmental impact of the conflict continues to be a point of contention.

As Azeris return to the Karabakh plains after three decades, they discover a landscape drastically altered by war. The destruction of forests, pollution of water sources, and vandalism of cultural monuments have left many grappling with the reality of a changed homeland.

By admin

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