Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action

NATO/PfP Unexploded Ordnance Clearance Project in Azerbaijan

The joint NATO/NAMSA and ANAMA project on identification and destruction of all surface and immediate subsurface UXO and explosive hazards in the former military base in Saloglu village, Agstafa district of Azerbaijan, started in December 2005. The Project also covered checking, clearance and removal of stockpiled UXO located in the towns of Agstafa and Poylu, Agstafa district of Azerbaijan.

The military ammunition warehouse located in Saloglu village and consisting of 138 bunkers was the largest Soviet armoury in the Caucasus region.

In 1991, when Azerbaijan regained independence, the warehouse was destroyed by the soviet army before its official withdrawal. As result of the explosion thousands pieces of UXO were scattered over a large area of 44,000,000 sq.m. The territory of the former soviet warehouse which is about 6,755,000 sq.m was confirmed as the most contaminated area in Agstafa district. Since the explosion, 152 UXO-related accidents with 37 people killed were reported.

Considering situation in Saloglu as a high priority, the Government of Azerbaijan tasked ANAMA to start clearance operations to address the problem. The operations started in January 2003 and small team of UXO operators trained by US EUCOM cleared more than 1 mln sq.m of contaminated territories.

In December 2001 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs via the Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan to NATO has officially appealed to the NATO Political-Military Steering Committee (PMSC) to start PfP Trust Fund Project to deal with the existing UXO problem in Saloglu village. The NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) runs similar projects in Partner nations aimed at destruction of stockpiled ammunition, landmines, UXOs as a part of the management of the consequences of defense reforms under the PfP Trust Fund Policy. ANAMA was tasked by the Government of Azerbaijan to develop a Project Proposal for the UXO clearance operations in Saloglu and submit it to NAMSA.

In July 2002 Turkey voluntary took the role of the Lead Nation for the project, and ANAMA was assigned as an Implementing Agency for the Project.

The Project Proposal was jointly developed by the ANAMA and NAMSA and based on the results of the assessment mission.

 On April 02, 2003 the Memorandum of Understanding between Government of Azerbaijan and NAMSA was signed. 

On April 28, 2003 the presentation of the UXO Clearance Project in Saloglu took place in the NATO HQs in Brussels.

Donor Conference aimed at raising the awareness of the international community about the PfP Trust Fund Project in Saloglu was held by ANAMA in Baku in June, 2003. The Conference included participation by representatives of the Government of Azerbaijan, UNDP Azerbaijan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic missions accredited in Azerbaijan. 

On 14 February, 2005 all the efforts aimed to facilitate the Saloglu project was put in action in NATO HQs in Brussels. At a special ceremony Turkey, the Lead Nation, signed a Financial Management Agreement for the Project with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the representatives of contributing countries.

The First Phase of the Project covered the surface and subsurface clearance of the less contaminated Green Zone and the surface clearance of the heavily contaminated Red Zone. First Phase started in December 2005 and has been accomplished in May 2007. As a result about 545 hectares of surface have been cleared. 261,435 UXOs have been located (including 20 204 WP UXOs) and 75 164 UXOs have been destroyed. The total cost of First Phase was EUR 1,048,000.

After the practical implementation of the Project started, it has become clear that the problem is more serious than it seemed initially and its solution would be more difficult than it was initially considered by international experts during their assessment missions to Azerbaijan.    

The main challenge was much higher level of contamination which required more difficult and time-consuming clearance operations than it had been initially anticipated. Therefore, the Project was revised and the new proposal covering revealed aspects of the problem was developed.   

The reassessment mission to Saloglu comprised of the NATO/NAMSA experts and ANAMA specialists have been organized. The results of the mission confirmed the necessity of launching the Second Phase of Saloglu Project to provide the required safety level of the clearance in accordance with the international standards.

Number of meetings and negotiations in Luxemburg and Baku involving the NATO/NAMSA and ANAMA specialists finished with the acceptance of the addendum to the Saloglu Project Proposal which stipulates the new work schedule for ANAMA. All the territory intended for clearance has been divided into two zones in accordance with the level and complicacy of the impact. The First Phase of Saloglu Project covered the surface and subsurface clearance of the less contaminated Green Zone and the surface clearance of the heavily contaminated Red Zone.

Amended contract envisaged the Second Phase of the Saloglu Project which covered the subsurface clearance operations in Red Zone with funding requirements of about EUR 440,000. The Second Phase started in June 2007 and has been accomplished in March 2009. The Government of Azerbaijan being deeply concerned with the situation in Saloglu expressed its willingness to cover 30% of the total required sum and made every effort to find donors for the Second Phase of the Project.

The Second Phase however, began to encounter several challenges since inception. The extremely high level of contamination made use of magnetic locators limited or sometimes not possible at all. This seriously jeopardized not only the productivity rate but made it practically impossible to implement the Second Phase in time. BAC SOP can not be any longer applied to this area.

The quantity of ammunitions found in Saloglu area also posed significant challenge (about 100 UXOs on 4,000-5,000 sqm). The amount of UXOs recovered within the project was continuously increasing and exceeded the figures stated in the initial operational plan.

The re-assessment missions by independent experts of NAMSA in 2007 and 2008 confirmed that further increase of resources (operational staff, equipment, mechanisms etc.) is an essential condition for the accomplishment of the project in full-scale.

During 2008, ANAMA has managed to increase and reinforce the existing EOD team: 26 EOD specialists have been trained, equipped and integrated into ongoing operations (15 EOD operators, 4 specialist for Demolition Team and 7 metal collectors for supporting team).

By the end of the Second Phase, 111,7 hectares of subsurface land were cleared, 111,911 UXOs located and 211,682 UXOs destroyed (this includes UXOs found during the First Phase).

The Third Phase Project proposal has been prepared by NAMSA in compliance with the results of an independent NAMSA assessment mission to Saloglu.

The requirements within the project proposal for the Third Phase was based on the three major points: to reinforce the operational “toolset” with focus on the strengthened mechanical assistance supporting by increased material and human resources; to elaborate new timeline for ammunition disposal procedures by approaching new improved demolition methodology with the support of mechanical techniques; and to increase the cost rate per hectare taking into account all external factors (severe economic changes, inflation rate, etc) to provide adequate support for project completion.

The Third Phase addendum stipulated that the objective of the project will be achieved in 27 months with the total budget of EUR 1,968,225.

The Government of Azerbaijan allocated funds within the State budget for 2009-2010 to cover 50% of the financial requirements for the Third Phase of Saloglu Project.

For a one year ANAMA UXO Team worked on different methodologies drawn from the Red Zone experience to prepare a specific SOP for the clearance of abandoned ammunition storage area. In 2008 in order to better plan and estimate Saloglu operations the area was divided into categories (Cat 1 - bunkers, Cat 2 - area around the bunkers, Cat 3 – Green Zone). The major obstacles was clearance of Cat 1 area with burned bunkers full of metal, debris and UXOs buried deep under those obstacles. Those areas were cleared only on surface and marked as Cat 1 till a new methodology was applied. In 2009 the UXO team of ANAMA prepared draft SOP called “Abandoned Ammunition Storage Area Clearance SOP” which was subsequently approved and applied in the operations. An excavator procured by NAMSA for the clearance of Cat 1 bunkers enabled to clear above mentioned bunkers in 1-2 years time period. 

The number of operational staff was increased in 2009 by newly trained and deployed 14 UXO Operators. Establishment of a Demo Team enabled ANAMA to significantly cutdown the gap between UXO found and destroyed since the First Phase of Project.

The accomplishment of the Saloglu Project ensured high level of safety for all intents and purposes in the project’s command areas. The priority of the Project was emphasized through its political, humanitarian, environmental and security perspectives. The Government of Azerbaijan being deeply concerned with the situation in Saloglu has been continuously supporting this project at all levels and undertaking efforts in resource mobilization and promotion of the project among international community and donors.

5.7 contaminated land has been totally cleared, more than 640 000 UXO found and destroyed. Total cost for Saloglu Project determined at EUR 3.455.874.

The Trust Fund project to clear UXO in Saloglu has become possible with the financial support of Turkey, the Project’s Lead Nation,  Azerbaijan, Australia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Iceland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, the United States, and the United Nations Development Programme.

Saloglu Project Inauguration – November 18, 2005

Training for EOD Group