Deadly legacy

THE scars left by industrial pollution have failed to heal in Sumgait, a former industrial city located near Azerbaijan's capital, Baku. Plans to repair the dam age done to the city's ecology and economy have remained on paper due to interference from the industrial lobby and some politicians.

Sumgait was known as the 'dead zone' in the 1980s when 32 chemicals and, metals plants emitted 120,000 tonnes of waste a year and 36 of every 1,000 babies died before they were a year old. As most of the plants began closing down following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the International Monetary Fund suggested evacuating the population of 330,000 and deserting Sumgait entirely. The plan was rejected and most of the people have stayed on without any work. The infant mortality rate is nearly three times that of the US. A project devised by the UN to transform the city into a 'special economic zone' has been languishing in the Parliament for a year now. The industrial lobby has been strongly opposing it as the project would ham- per their illegal interests, says Paolo Lembo, the UN resident coordinator for Azerbaijan.