Lachin: new lease of life
    "Great Return" in full swing

    ANALYTICS  31 May 2023 - 15:11

    Khazar Akhundov

    Over the past two and a half years Azerbaijan has carried out extensive work to restore the basic infrastructure of the Karabakh and East Zangazur economic regions. In line with Great Return, mass construction of housing, social and production facilities in the recovered towns and villages in the liberated territories is in full swing. During his recent visit to the Lachin district President Ilham Aliyev attended the foundation laying ceremony of several villages of the district, as well as residential houses, an agroindustrial park, and a number of other facilities in the administrative centre of Lachin city.

    Various undertakings aimed at the creation of primary roads, energy, and communal infrastructure in the Lachin district bordering Armenia have been implemented here since the very first days of liberation from the occupation. Taking into consideration the geographic features of the region - harsh mountainous landscape, long cold and snowy winters, the implementation of infrastructure projects is going on in quite difficult conditions. However, despite the difficult natural conditions, as in other liberated areas, significant progress has been made in a relatively short period in Lachin.

    During his visit to Lachin last weekend President Ilham Aliyev was briefed on the achievements in restoration and construction of transport communications, energy, and other infrastructure projects in the district. The most important role in the development of the entire south-western region of the country will play the high mountain roads connecting the Lachin and Kalbajar regions with the north-western regions of the country, namely the 82-km Toganali-Kalbajar-Istisu highway and 76-km Kalbajar-Lachin road.

    In particular, in the Toganali-Kalbajar section the road passes through five tunnels with a total length of 25.9 km and about half of the tunneling works through the rocks have been completed so far. Preparatory and other measures are also underway on the Kalbajar-Lachin route, where 17 tunnels with a total length of 13.3 km, 23 bridges with a total length of 4.1 km, as well as three complex engineering interchanges are to be built. At the same time, construction of 56.4 km of the four-lane Khudaferin-Gubadli-Lachin road is ongoing in full swing, and a 20.4 km section of the road base has already been completed and paved with asphalt concrete.

    The Lachin district development strategy envisages the construction of an airport here, which will ensure all-season ease of travel to the region and contribute to the development of international tourism. At present, preparations for the construction of the runway and terminal are underway - more than 37% of the drilling and excavation work for the runway and taxiway, apron, terminal and ancillary buildings have already been completed. The airport located in the foothills will be put into operation in 2025, and Lachin international airport will be the ninth object of this level in Azerbaijan.

    Development of the energy infrastructure will be no less significant for the future development of the Lachin district and the return of the citizens of our country. The opening of the 110/35/10 kV Gorchu digital substation was held with the participation of the head of state. It will be connected to the Kalbajar substation commissioned two years ago by a 42-kilometer double-circuit 110 kV power line. The substation is fully automated and equipped with a SCADA control system, and the high-voltage line laid at an altitude of 2,200 metres - in the mountains, dense forests and off-road conditions - includes as an option an optical cable for high-speed broadband internet transmission. In the near future, a 110 kV double-circuit transmission line is to be installed from the Gorchu substation to the Lachin urban substation, completing the ring-fence power supply to the liberated areas.

    In general, green energy is essential for the future development of the Lachin district, which has huge water and hydropower potential. In the past, there were 14 small hydropower plants in the area, most of which were decommissioned by the Armenian occupiers, and they are now being rebuilt in stages. An equal number of new small hydropower plants will also be built, the total number of which will eventually reach 28. Their total capacity will be 120 MW, which is several times higher than the long-term needs of Lachin, and the electricity generated in the region is planned to be transmitted to the general energy system of Azerenerji.

    It should be noted that the 10 biggest rivers of the Karabakh region, including such full-flowing rivers as Khakari, Terterchai, Bazarchai, and Khachinchai, originate in mountainous Lachin and nearby Kalbajar districts. They form the main watercourse in the Minor Caucasus region and their water fills the Sarsang reservoir with a capacity of 560 million cubic metres. The Khakari River, which originates in the Lachin region and is over 100 km long, is of particular importance. At present, the JSC "Land Reclamation and Water Management" is developing a feasibility study for the construction of the Khakarichai reservoir with a capacity of 90 million cubic metres, which will provide drinking water not only for the districts freed from occupation but also for a total population of three million in 14 districts of Azerbaijan, including the remote Masalli districts.

    Thus, the resolution of key issues of life support in the Lachin district - the availability of a sustainable electricity supply, capacious water resources and quality roads - creates the preconditions for the implementation of the main objectives of the first State Programme "Great Return to the Liberated Territories of Azerbaijan".

    According to the master plan 700 buildings, including 620 private houses and 9 apartment buildings are to be restored in the district centre. On May 28, President Ilham Aliyev attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the first apartment block in Lachin, which will house 1,630 people. "In just 7-8 months most of the city is completely rebuilt, and the first 20 families have already been accommodated in Lachin since yesterday, and by the end of June many more people will come, the number of families will reach 764. At the first stage, Lachin will host 4 thousand citizens in total, maybe even more," said the head of state.

    The citizens returning to Lachin will live in comfortable conditions because a lot of work has been done recently in terms of developing the city's infrastructure. The Lachin general plan is based on the principle of "the city in harmony with nature", which stipulates the formation of ecological features of urbanisation - protection of nature and landscape, use of "green" energy sources, and economic diversification. According to projections, in the next 20 years the area of the city will expand to 713 hectares and the population will reach 18 thousand people. Much of what has been planned is already being implemented at a rapid pace: in the administrative centre of Lachin district the restoration of intra-city and exit roads with a total length of 59 km is almost completed, and a modern lighting system has been installed along the roads. The installation of underground and above-ground utilities is nearing completion, including the power cables of the electricity distribution system, and the water supply and sewerage systems have been restored.

    At the same time, 71 administrative buildings in the city are being renovated and 7 parks are being established, two of which have already been completed. A sports complex is also being built, a beach and recreation centre is being set on the banks of the Hakari River, and orchards are being planted for several kilometres at the entrance to the city. Special works have opened access to the ancient caves on the outskirts of the town, called Abdallar, and the area is considered one of the attractive sites for the development of ethnographic and nature tourism.

    Similar work will soon begin in a number of other settlements of the Lachin district: the head of state participated in the foundation laying ceremony of the villages of Shelve and Gorchu the other day; the design works of the villages of Agalarushagi, Oguldere, Zagalta, Qarabeyli, Korjabulag, Lolabagirli are being completed. At the same time, the villages of Zabukh and Sus are preparing to receive former internally displaced people and by the end of this year it is planned to resettle here 1000 and 300 people, respectively.

    At the same time, no less important issue of employment for the returning compatriots is being tackled. "Work is continuing in Lachin to create manufacturing, service and educational facilities and increase employment," Elnur Abdullayev, chief co-ordinator of the Great Returns programme, said the other day. According to him, the most important role in the creation of Lachin production cluster is assigned to an agro-industrial park, where work is already underway to create 46 enterprises of various types, about 80% of which will begin operations by the end of this summer. The park will be home to manufacturers of food and light industry, furniture production facilities, fishing industry, textile, footwear, ceramics, crafts, as well as services in the educational, tourism and service sectors. In total, the agro-industrial park will employ around 1,170 people. According to Abdullayev, 226 residents of Lachin have been provided with job at the seven existing enterprises, and in general, citizens returning to the district will not have problems with employment in the future.

    Indeed, in view of resources and natural potential, the district rich with pastures will turn into a major cattle breeding centre in the near future. It is expected to establish fish farms on mountain rivers and lakes, to develop beekeeping, leather processing and wool production, as well as to revive the ancient craft of carpet weaving.

    The region has huge mineral resources - raw materials for the construction industry, and production of facing materials - marble, tufa, and nephrite. There are deposits of mercury, and prospecting of gold and other precious metals is conducted here. There are many mineral springs with healing properties in Lachin Mountains and their considerable flow rates give grounds to speak about the development of the area for the production of bottled water and water resorts. The picturesque nature and mountainous landscapes of the region offer enormous opportunities for the development of various recreational destinations and mountain tourism.


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