Ilham Aliyev laid foundation stone for Shirvan irrigation canal in Hajigabul district

16 April 2024, 10:30
Ilham Aliyev laid foundation stone for Shirvan irrigation canal in Hajigabul district

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev laid the foundation stone for the reconstruction of the Shirvan irrigation canal in the Hajigabul district and delivered remarks at the event.

Zaur Mikayilov, Chairman of the Azerbaijan State Water Reserves Agency, briefed the head of state on the upcoming developments in the irrigation canal.

In 1958, the Upper Shirvan Irrigation Canal, the country's second-largest canal, was inaugurated, drawing water from the Mingachevir reservoir. Covering over 112,000 hectares of agricultural land, it also serves as a water source for residential areas in several regions including Yevlakh, Agdash, Goychay, Zardab, Ujar, Kurdemir, Ismayilli, and Agsu located in the Shirvan plain.

However, after more than 65 years of continuous operation, the canal, which has a water conveyance capacity of 78 cubic meters per second and a length of 122 kilometers, has experienced significant water losses and structural deterioration, leading to a decline in the effectiveness of irrigation and water supply.

To address these challenges and enhance water management efficiency, President Ilham Aliyev issued a decree on April 8 to reconstruct the canal, renaming it the Shirvan Irrigation Canal.

President Ilham Aliyev laid the foundation stone for the reconstruction of the Shirvan irrigation canal.

Upon the request of the Agency, consulting firm "Su Yapı" from Türkiye prepared feasibility study documents for the reconstruction of the Upper Shirvan canal, divided into 4 phases. The modernization of the canal, along with the implementation of a centralized SCADA system, will optimize water resource management, enhance drinking water supply to residential areas, and facilitate irrigation of over 230,000 hectares of land. This includes improving water access to more than 110,000 hectares of existing agricultural land and bringing over 116,000 hectares of arable land into cultivation. In addition, it aims to address approximately 346 million cubic meters of water loss, improve the ecological and reclamation condition of Hajiqabul Lake and surrounding areas, increase agricultural productivity, discontinue the operation of pumping stations supplying water to large-scale agricultural areas, and regulate the operation of the Pirsaatchay reservoir pumping station.

The head of state delivered his remarks at the event:

- A few days ago, I signed an Order on the reconstruction of the Shirvan Irrigation Canal, and today we are laying its foundation. This is a milestone. Among the infrastructure projects implemented in Azerbaijan in recent years, this one is of special importance. Because the Upper Shirvan Irrigation Canal has been in operation for many years. The canal has a ground bed and most of it has fallen into disrepair over the years. This, of course, has been causing losses. Water losses have been quite substantial. Due to the losses and water leaks, the surrounding lands have become saline and unsuitable for cultivation.

The Upper Shirvan canal was built in 1958, and the canal, which is now called the Shirvan canal, is embarking on a new stage. The canal will actually be rebuilt, and thousands of people will benefit from this project. The length of the 120-kilometer canal will almost be doubled to surpass 200 kilometers.

As for arable areas, it will also be more than doubled in size. The new project to be implemented will cover 230,000 hectares of arable land. Most of this will be newly irrigated farmland. If before this canal covered eight districts, now it will cover 10, and the last point of the canal will be Hajigabul Lake right behind me. The Hajigabul Lake has been completely dry for more than 10 years now. Once canal has been put into operation, the lake will also be filled, which will have a very positive impact on nature.

This project once again shows that the primary goal of the infrastructure projects being implemented in Azerbaijan is to ensure the rapid development of our country, improve people's well-being and create conditions for the employment of local population. Major infrastructure projects have been implemented in recent years. The infrastructure projects implemented in Azerbaijan have elevated our country to a completely new level. Electricity, highways, railways, water lines, drinking water projects, including irrigation ones, are already yielding results. In previous years, a number of major projects related to this field were implemented as well. Among them, first of all, I should mention the Takhtakorpu-Jeyranbatan Irrigation Canal. The construction of the Takhtakorpu water reservoir was also a project of special importance. The Shamkirchay reservoir was another very large infrastructure project. So, the volume and area of arable land in both the Northern and Western regions has significantly increased.

The importance of the Shirvan canal will also be clearly visible. This will be our largest project – largest in terms of water volume and coverage of farmland. I am sure that everyone will see the importance of this new canal in the settlements located in the 10 districts in the near future.

By implementing this project, we are breathing a new life into this sector. At the same time, an order has been signed on the construction of the Karabakh Canal – it used to be called the Upper Karabakh canal and now it is called the Karabakh Canal. A feasibility study will be prepared and a new project will be developed. We should commence the construction of the Karabakh canal next year. This is a canal that will cover 115,000 hectares. The number of districts it will cover is equal to nine. In other words, 10 districts will be irrigated here through the Shirvan Canal and nine more will be irrigated through the Karabakh Canal.

These are the primary directions of the future development of our country, because the development of the non-oil sector, the development of agriculture, the increase of employment, the improvement of the well-being of our citizens and the efficient use of water resources – all these factors are reflected in the work we do.

There is great concern about climate change in the world, including in Azerbaijan. We can see that this year has actually been different from previous years. This year, there has been sufficient snow and rain and there is enough water in our reservoirs. But in previous years, we faced drought every year. There was less snow in our mountains. The water level in our rivers decreased in previous years and in some cases our main rivers dried up. The fact that the Caspian Sea is becoming shallow is obvious. Everyone can see that. Under such circumstances, it is our primary objective to use water resources efficiently.

I want to reiterate that many infrastructure projects have been implemented in Azerbaijan. The level of gasification has reached 96 percent. The supply of electricity and the creation of new power plants have gained momentum and made significant progress. The entire country has new and modern roads. Therefore, drinking water and irrigation projects will be the priority among the infrastructure projects for the government in the coming years.

A large-scale program has already been prepared. The Shirvan and Karabakh canals are the largest irrigation canals together with the Takhtakorpu-Jeyranbatan canal, so special importance is attached to these projects. Based on the program already adopted, more than 10 reservoirs will be built in Azerbaijan. For example, the construction of the Yengija reservoir in Gabala district has already started. After it is completed, 10,000 hectares of arable land that has not been irrigated before will receive irrigation.

If we look at our general irrigation projects, we will see that at least more than 500,000 hectares of land will be irrigated in just a few years. In addition, there are advanced management systems aimed at the reduction of losses – the losses in the Shirvan canal are currently close to 30 percent. After the construction of the concrete canal, the losses will stand at a maximum of 5 percent. In other words, it is the duty of everyone to save water, first of all, the state, and we are doing just that.

These projects are related only to one part of Azerbaijan. If we add projects being implemented in liberated territories, the picture will be more promising. As a result of the Patriotic War and the anti-terror operation, we have now secured total control over our water resources. Armenia used to occupy not only our lands, but also our water resources. The water resources available in Karabakh and East Zangezur constitute 25 percent of our total. The main feature of these water resources, their positive side, is that they are generated thanks to domestic sources. Because, as you know, our main rivers originate abroad – the Kura River, the Araz River, and the Samur River. Our main rivers flow from abroad. Therefore, it is of particular importance that water resources of Karabakh and East Zangazur are internal sources. We have implemented major infrastructure projects in a short period of time, and this work continues.

Some time ago, the Khachinchay reservoir was opened in Aghdam district. The Kondalanchay reservoir in Fuzuli district will also be opened in the near future. The construction of the Zabukhchay reservoir is currently underway. The Sugovushan reservoir has almost been rebuilt, and one of the two canals coming out of that reservoir has already been completely repaired. The second canal will also be repaired, so more water will be supplied to several districts previously deprived of water due to the Armenian occupation. The volume of new farmland will be close to 100,000 hectares. Therefore, when I say that at least 500,000 hectares of land will be irrigated, this is what I mean. Considering that the area of irrigated agricultural land in Azerbaijan is not too extensive, these projects are of particular importance. Other major irrigation projects are planned in Karabakh and East Zangezur. The construction of the Hakarichay and Bargushadchay reservoirs and canals is also on the agenda. Preparation of feasibility studies is in progress now, and I think we can start the implementation of these projects next year.

Of course, all this requires substantial funding. Azerbaijan is a capable state, a state that relies on its own strength and capabilities. We are implementing large-scale work in Karabakh and East Zangezur that is unmatched on a global scale. Residential houses, infrastructure projects, irrigation projects, railways, tunnels, airports – the work done in a matter of three years shows the power of our state and the determination of our government. All these projects I have mentioned will be implemented. There will be many other projects, but they are smaller scope-wise. But every project is important, and Azerbaijan, which has limited water resources, will be fully self-sufficient in this field as well.

I should also mention another project. Work on this project is underway. This is the Caspian Sea water desalination project. After implementation of this project, we will use the water of the Caspian Sea for both irrigation and drinking. Several countries of the world have ample experience in the field of desalination, and we also have a large water basin such as the Caspian Sea. Of course, we will use this opportunity. So, the canal I have laid the foundation of today will have a very positive impact in the near future.

A week ago, I was familiarized with the operation of the agricultural park in Hajigabul district. I was informed that more than 4,000 hectares of grain were cultivated here and the yield was about 7 tons of wheat per hectare. Now, for comparison, I will say that the average yield in our country is slightly more than 3 tons per hectare. Here in Hajigabul, these fields were never sown before – neither during the Soviet era nor during the years of independence. Because there was no water and the land is not very fertile. When there is water, when new technologies are applied, where there is equipment, state support and an active private sector – when all these factors are combined, we can see this result – 7 tons per hectare in Hajigabul.

Meanwhile, in places where the soil is always fertile, this figure can be further increased. But I will tell you that the yield of 7 tons of grain per hectare is the level of developed countries. In fact, this is food wheat, which we need the most. We are still dependent on imports. If these technologies are applied in the areas located along the Shirvan canal, we will significantly reduce our dependence on imports. When the other projects I have mentioned are implemented, at some point, we might completely cease imports.

In the lands of Karabakh and East Zangezur, which have been liberated from occupation, the development of agriculture has gained momentum alongside construction work. People returning there are already taking advantage of these opportunities. At the same time, as a result of the application of state-of-the-art technologies, grain, fruit growing, horticulture and viticulture will be bolstered there. Karabakh and East Zangezur are among the most beautiful places in Azerbaijan, and the presence of lands suitable for agriculture, water resources, rivers, springs and meadows creates ample opportunities for both animal husbandry and plant cultivation. We are doing everything in a planned manner in order to obtain maximum productivity, maximum efficiency from every inch of land, and we will continue to do that.

I am confident, the people of Azerbaijan are also completely sure that everything we have said, all the promises we have made are always fulfilled, and the implementation of projects I mentioned today will be fully ensured. We will also celebrate the opening of the Shirvan canal in three years – by 2027 at the latest.