Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline Far From ‘Complete' While Threats to People and Environment Remain Unaddressed
The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was officially inaugurated on 25th May but the pipeline is far from complete.
Over the coming months, more "inaugurations" can be expected as the consortium of companies led by BP will seek to convince the public that the pipeline is completed and the issues that it raises are resolved. However:
The construction of the pipeline will not actually be completed until 2009. Only after this point, when all the pumping stations and associated infrastructure have been built, will the project deliver its planned 1 million barrels of oil a day.
The ongoing construction of pumping stations on the BTC pipeline and the laying of the South Caucasus Gas Pipeline will continue to disrupt the lives of thousands for at least the next 3 years.
Even after the construction phase does finally end, the impacts of the project will continue for the people along the pipeline's route. The threat of leaks and subsequent destruction of environment and livelihoods as well as the impact of oil revenues accruing to ruling elites will remain hanging over them like Damocles' sword.
The past two years of construction have seen continuous opposition from many affected communities in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, as villagers have seen roads destroyed, farmland disrupted, homes impacted and poor levels of compensation.
For human rights in the region the threat is actually likely to increase once the oil revenues flow.
The violent suppression of an opposition rally in Azerbaijan last week demonstrates the authoritarian nature of the Aliyev government, a regime that the pipeline will enrich.
Ferhat Kaya a lawyer in Eastern Turkey, who has struggled to highlight the poor compensation given to farmers in the region, has been repeatedly arrested and suffered physical abuse at the hands of the Turkish police. The pipeline promises to exacerbate similar human rights violations in the region as the government clamps down on any signs of dissent against this ‘national asset'.
For the ecology of the Caucasus the real threat begins.
BP has chosen a faulty corrosion protection coating which corrosion experts say makes the risk of leaks inevitable. Although BP denies that there is a real problem this is contradicted by the fact that BP remains in a legal dispute with its contractors over this issue.
After 2009, the pipeline plans to ship 1 million barrels of oil a day for the next 40 years. The passage of this oil will mean that day by day, areas of fragile ecology such as the Borjomi region will be continually under threat from oil spills.
For the global climate the threat increases.
The export of 365 million barrels of oil and 6.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year will add about 170 million tonnes of carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere - over 30% of the UK's annual emissions.
For London's financial centre and the UK government the pipeline is not a ‘done deal'.
Key decisions to plan and back this project were taken by UK and UK-based institutions such as - BP, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Department for International Development and private banks such as Royal Bank of Scotland. They remain at risk reputationally as well as financially should the pipeline leak or cause continued rights abuses.
The Baku-Ceyhan Campaign (including Friends of the Earth, CornerHouse, Kurdish Human Rights Project and PLATFORM) has pledged to maintain its commitment to support affected communities along the pipeline's route, to monitor the impact of the project and to hold UK institutions to account for the support that they have given the project.
Hannah Ellis, International Financial Institutions Campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "It is outrageous that public money, provided by institutions like the World Bank and the EBRD has been used for this project under the guise of “aid”. The Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline is causing immense problems for the people and the environment it is claiming to serve. The World Bank and the other backers of the pipeline should suspend operations until key environmental and social risks associated with the project have been addressed."
Manana Kochladze, CEE Bankwatch Network's Regional Coordinator for Caucasus, said, "The developments around the construction of the BTC pipeline unfortunately prove the serious environmental and safety risks highlighted by national and international environmentalists. These risks have been rashly neglected by the IFC and the EBRD and as a result the number of violations and breaches of international standards is growing, putting the people and environment along the pipeline at ever greater risk."