The upcoming June 17-19 Formula One race in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku, may be another image-booster for the Caspian Sea country’s government. But for many city residents, the race is associated with potential hassles, including persistent gridlock and air pollution.
Even without the race, traffic is becoming a big problem in Baku. As energy wealth rolled into Azerbaijan since the start of the century, private car ownership has increased by 3.3 times to over 1million vehicles, according to government data. Baku, the country’s main job market, accounts for more than 57 percent of that number.
As a result, traffic jams in this city of some 2.2 million people have proliferated, along with air-quality problems.
Local and international researchers claim that, despite government efforts to address the issue, air pollution ranks among Azerbaijan’s most serious environmental problems.
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Vusala Alibayli is a freelance journalist based in Azerbaijan.