BAKU Oct. 18 (The Conway Bulletin) — Heavy rainfall flooded parts of Baku forcing dozens of people to flee their homes and triggering a round of grumbling by locals about a lack of investment into essential infrastructure.
This is important because the popularity of Azerbaijan’s government has fallen sharply over the last couple of years with a drop in living standards linked to a devaluation in the local currency and a squeeze in GDP levels. Earlier this year, virtually unprecedented protests against a drop in living standards swept across a handful of towns in rural Azerbaijan.
This was the second major flood in Baku this year. The ministry of ecology described a flood in September as the worst for 36 years.
Reaction from Baku residents showed the levels of frustration felt by people. Aygun, a 28-year old teacher, said the government should start improving infrastructure in Baku and its environs.
“In the villages around Baku, the roads are all unpaved. So even after a day of rain, we get stuck in the mud,” she said.
And Emin, a 33-year-old consultant, agreed. He blamed corruption and mismanagement for the flooding.
“If they are going to build a new sewage system, they will need millions of manat,” he said. “But I’m not sure they have the money now when the oil prices are down. I don’t even know if they have the will.” He also referenced a cartoon on social media which showed the mayor of Baku, Hajibala Abutalibov, sitting and calmly ignoring the rain.
“I think the message is that it’s always ordinary people who suffer, never the authorities,” Emin said. “And that’s the reality.”
The government declined to comment but a spokesman for Azersu, Azerbaijan’s water operator, said the city’s sewage system needed updating.
>>This story was first published in issue 301 of The Conway Bulletin