International Organization for Migration (IOM), Mission in Azerbaijan

With the Project:
Integrated rural development for IDP communities in Azerbaijan through revitalization of kahriz water supply system

In this project, the water shortage problem is addressed through the rehabilitation of eco-friendly hydraulic structures known as “kahriz”, traditionally used as the main water source in arid zones of Azerbaijan. Kahriz systems have played an important role in Azerbaijan since ancient times to address water shortages. However, these systems were seriously neglected and fell into disrepair during Soviet times following the introduction of piped water systems and dug wells. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, only few of them remained in operation but with greatly reduced capacities. It is estimated that at least 1,400 such systems exist in 20 regions of Azerbaijan but so far only 10% of them have been rehabilitated and used by local communities. The overall goal of this project is to rehabilitate them, and thus increase livelihood opportunities and access to water resources for rural communities in Azerbaijan.


Water shortage is one of the main problems that rural populations face in Azerbaijan located in arid zones. Compared to other countries in the region, Azerbaijan’s water resources are particularly scarce. The authorities have made multiple attempts to try to address the country’s water security issue, mainly by drilling wells. The installation of artesian wells proved to be costly and environmentally destructive, led to salinity intrusion of the soil, and resulted in lower agricultural productivity. Water challenges are rampant especially in rural areas, as the people often drink and use poor quality water, which is bought from neighboring districts and kept in small private reservoirs for weeks without any filtration and refining. With 40% of the total population engaged in the agricultural sector, the lack of water does not only deteriorate hygiene and sanitation conditions but also hinders the economic well-being of individual households and economic development in general.


The hydraulic kahriz structures are rehabilitated in order to solve the water shortage in arid zones. Once rehabilitated, they provide water all year round with no electricity and no technical devices needed for extraction. So far, 43 of exploration-drilling activities at the main wells of the kahriz have been carried out. One kahriz has been rehabilitated which increased its water flow capacity from 0 to 27 liters/sec. Three more of them are being rehabilitated currently. In addition, the total 400 km of irrigation channels are being repaired, over 30 km have been cleaned out already. 50 people have been trained in the needed rehabilitation skills and techniques. Besides, a research and information center was established at the Azerbaijan State Agrarian University and an engineering course book about these eco-friendly systems was prepared and included in the academic curriculum. At the end of the project, the average water volume will increase by 50 %, 40 communities with 8,000 households will have improved access to clean drinking water, and 50 km of kahriz tunnels will be restored.


Kahriz is a hydraulic structure in the form of a system of tunnels and wells designed to bring infiltration waters to the surface of the earth by gravity, which accumulate and migrate on the first waterproof (watertight) rock, using the natural slope of the terrain. Traditionally, all of the work regarding the construction and repair of them is carried out through manual labor. This is the main factor that has a negative impact on the economic efficiency of a kahriz. To increase the economic efficiency of these systems, IOM decided to develop an innovative technological method, which is designed to carry out a full cycle of restoration work using machines and mechanisms adapted for work in kahriz systems. The new technology with vertical and horizontal drilling equipment was tested and it has been increasing the renovation efficiency, work speed, effectiveness, and safety.



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