Point of View

A year for the struggle to protect the environment: Achievements, losses and non-finished activities


RA Ministry of Nature Protection proved that it cannot meet its functions and implements a policy which is inadmissible from the environmental protection perspective, stated the environmentalists summing up the year. 

Inga Zarafyan, president of "EkoLur" Informational NGO, states that allowing the anti-environmental activities of various organizations and presenting different legislative drafts to the National Assembly, without taking the opinion of the environmentalist into account serves as a proof for their concerns.

Environmental victories 

The most visible result of the struggle of the environmentalists is the rescue of the "Trchkan" waterfall. RA Ministry of Nature Protection submitted a positive conclusion of environmental expertise to "Robshin" LLC in 2009-2011 allowing to build a hydroelectric power station with a capacity of 1 megawatt in the immediate negative impact zone, although "Trchkan" waterfall, which is situated on the border of Shirak and Lori marz, was included in the list of RA nature monuments as a water monument of a special aesthetic value.

The members of Facebook  group «Let's save Trchkan waterfall", which lists more than 5000 members, put a tent near the waterfall guarding it so as not to let that construction to be carried out, while the other members implemented gathering of signatures and organized demonstrations in the capital.

As a result the plan of building a HPS on "Trchkan" waterfall was officially suspended and a status of a state special protection area was given to the waterfall by the order of RA President Serzh Sargsyan.

Environmentalist Inga Zarafyan notices in this case the mistake of RA Ministry of Nature Protection, which allowed the illegal activities; as a result the RA Government would have to provide compensation to the "Robshin" LLC, if the latter decides to apply to the court.

Issues, that remained unsettled

According to the RA Government decree issued on April 28, 2011 the villagers lands of private use owned by the community with the territory of 162.92 hectares and 94.67 hectares situated in the administrative territory of Artsvanik rural community of RA Syunik marz were changed to the category of mining and lands of other industrial importance.

The environmentalists alarmed that instead of destroying and desiccating the tailing dumps they continue to expand it at the expense of the lands of the villagers, but no one responded to the alarm.

At the end of this year Rafik Atayan, the head of the Qajaran community refused to sign the agreement by which the village territory of 27 hectares is given to the Zangezur Copper and Molybdenum Combine. The Mayor of the village is sure that it would result in the compulsory evacuation of the whole village.

The members of the "Trchkan" group alongside with other civil society members support the Qajaran residents organizing actions of protest both in that place and in front of the building of the RA Government. With the posters "Stop the rape", "Green, clean and healthy Armenia" "We are Armenia, you are Armenia too" and many others the citizens will demand to reconsider the Government decrees on alienation of Syunik marz lands this year and the next year.

Is there any, or there is none? The uranium issue remains urgent

This year the environmentalists raised the issue of the possibly detained uranium mines and the danger of their exploitation, but their opponents continued to claim, that there is no uranium in Armenia, and the environmentalists make much ado about nothing.

Particularly the representatives of "Geotim" company say that they search only for gold in the Amulsar, which is on the border of Vayots Dzor and Syunik, in the distance of 170 kilometers from Yerevan. However, the environmentalists continue to claim that no one will take into consideration what they were searching for, after they expose the region to the radiation of more than 70 tons of uranium that these mines contain.

In the region of Amulsar 248 species of plants, 6 of which are registered in the Red Book of Armenia. 60 species of mammals, 12 species of reptiles, 2 species of amphibious and 5 species of fish live there. There are two ponds near Amulsar, the first is the one of Ketchut and the second, which is situated in two kilometers from the Amulsar is the one of Spandaryan. That is the second lardest pond in Armenia, with a cubic capacity of 257 million cubic meters.

The environmentalists are concerned that the exploitation of the mine endangers more than 6000 people's lives of Jermuk sanatorium and nearby area.

This issue will be raised in 2012 as the state bodies do not see any danger and the environmentalists are concerned and will continue to struggle.

SOS Sevan

This year the environmentalists raised an alarm concerning the project of gold enrichment plant in Sotk. "Geopromining" company found that carrying gold ore by rail from Sotk to Ararat and recycling is more consuming and it was decided to build a gold recycling plant in Sevan basin which is forbidden by law.

Two years ago the environmentalists could stop the construction but it restarted this year.

"On state level the issue of saving Sevan must be placed on the agenda. There should be a political will so that starting from the first person of the country everyone should stop for a moment and think, where are we going? What are we doing? It is necessary to change the mentality of our government bodies so that every day when opening the tap they should understand that one day a black liquid can run instead of water, do they waiting for that day?" asks environmentalist Gagik Sakhudyan.

At the of end of September a group of environmentalist-activists concerned about the Sevan issue on Gagik Sukhudyan's initiative raised an alarm about the "extremely poor condition" of Sevan and created "SOS Sevan" initiative with the following slogan "No Sevan, no Armenia. Let's unite and not allow a group of people to plunder and leave for our generations a poisonous swamp instead of 34 billion cubic meters of fresh water".

Legislative loopholes

The environmentalists will try to do their best to hinder passing of the draft of making amendments and additions to the RA law on "Environmental impact assessment" by second reading in spring 2012.

This project has been criticized by the environmentalists for already two years. The lawyer of the scientific research center for the Environmental law of Faculty of Jurisprudence in Yerevan State University (YSU), lecturer Gor Movsisyan analyzing the draft came to the conclusion that it should be mentioned in the draft that one conclusion must be given for one action (this is the principle of "Assessment" concept), so that the mistake of assessment of Teghut ore exploitation will not be repeated (two assessment conclusions).

The problem of recognizing the assessment conclusion as an administrative act is not addressed by the draft so the non-governmental organizations cannot appeal it in the court.

One of the most evident shortcomings is that the expert is selected by the initiator when an expert must be selected by authority, community and the interested representatives of the society.

Continuing anti-environmental activities

Karine Danielyan, the Head of Association "For Sustainable Human Development" considers the restoration of the status of Khosrov Reserve and raising the water level of Sevan and water treatment works besides Trchkan as achievements of the year. In Danielyan's opinion systematic changes in mining have not been recorded and the situation is getting worse.

"They took Teghut, now Hankavan, people are deprived from their houses as it is in the case of Kajaran and other villages' residents, they open a mine in Hrazdan city which endangers the drinking water and life of Hrazdan as well as it endangers Tsaghkadzor, they open mines in thereabouts of Jermuk and in Sevan" notes Danielyan.

Besides these issues it is hard for Karine Danielyan to record that the continuing anti-environmental constructions have become usual in Yerevan.

Karine Ionesyan

Source: www.hra.am