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#8 - JRL 7069 - RAS 16

SOURCE. Russian Environmental Digest, Vol. 5, No. 3, January 13-19, 2003

A consortium of oil companies led by British Petroleum (BP) is promoting the construction of a 1,750-km oil pipeline to connect the Caspian Sea offshore oilfields near Baku to a tanker terminal at the port of Ceyhan on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. The planned route passes through Azerbaijan and southern Georgia before entering eastern Turkey. A branch line to Supsa on Georgia's Black Sea coast is already complete and in operation.

In January 2003, an NGO called the Central and East European Bankwatch Network [Bankwatch for short] issued a report criticizing BP for choosing an ecologically sub-optimal route and rejecting safer alternatives. They argue that the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment draft report released by BP in September 2002 does not meet World Bank guidelines.

Three specific problems with the planned route are as follows:

* The Azerbaijan section of the pipeline is to run largely alongside the Kura River (which also flows through Georgia's capital Tbilisi). Placing a pipeline next to a major river is unnecessarily risky. (But it is much easier and cheaper to build in a river valley than through the mountains further south. [SDS])

* The Azerbaijan section of the route also crosses the semi-desert Gobustan area, a proposed national park and World Heritage site noted for its remarkable prehistoric rock art.

* The Georgian section of the route passes through the town of Borjomi, where the Borjomi mineral water famous throughout the former Soviet Union is manufactured. The company that produces the mineral water is concerned at the possibility of oil spills.

An ecologically preferable route through another part of southern Georgia was rejected on the grounds that it passes through or close to "disputed regions." (The reference is almost certainly to the region of Javakheti along the Georgian-Armenian border, which is populated mainly by ethnic Armenians. Armed conflict in this region is not very likely, but it cannot be ruled out. [SDS])

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