Oil pollution in the Caspian Sea
Home to 400 endemic species, the landlocked Caspian Sea is the largest inland body of water on earth, but is in danger of turning into an environmental dead zone.
The region's oil reserves are estimated at more than 200 billion barrels, second in the world only to the Middle East. Although oil has been produced in what is present-day Azerbaijan for more than 100 years, the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to heightened interest in the region. A new oil bonanza has seized the capital city of Baku but Azerbaijan's oil facilities are among the worst in the world. In some parts of the sea, oil pollution levels are 12 times the maximum permissible concentration. Oil extraction and pipeline construction have contributed to the pollution of over 30,000 hectares of land. This natural endangerment is exacerbated by the use of outdated technology, malfunctioning equipment and simple human disregard.
Scientists announce that once water pollution reaches a critical level in the coming years, the process could become irreversible.