Notes From Hairenik
June 16, 2005
I want to stress the importance of saving Shikahogh state forest and wildlife reserve located in lower Syunik. Deforestation is a huge problem in Armenia and, again, due to the vochinch mentality, citizens aren't doing anything about it. Logging has become a huge money-making business as oligarghs--even ministers--are profiting from exporting rare trees indigenous to the South Caucasus and found throughout Armenia.

According to Armenian Forests NGO, "Although forests have covered approximately 35-40 percent of the country in the first millennium, B.C., and 25 percent in the beginning of the 20th century, they have recently been drastically reduced to only 8-9%."

There will be a public forum that will take place on on Friday, June 17 from 10:00-13:00 at the American University of Armenia, 5th Floor Conference Hall, 40 Baghramyan Street, Yerevan.

I wrote a story about this issue which appeared on the front page of the Armenian Weekly in the June 4 issue, but I'm unaware if the story appeared elsewhere.

To read a story I wrote about deforestation in Armenia in spring 2004, click here.

To see a Flash presentation about the reserve, click here.

To sign an online petition to President Robert Kocharian, click here.

Here is a statement from Jeffrey Tufenkian of Armenian Forests NGO:

Upon the order of Ministry of Transport and Communication of the Republic of Armenia “Transproject” CJSC has developed a project to construct a freeway from Kapan through Tsav to Shvanidzor which will cross the Mtnadzor section of the Shikahogh State Reserve. The Government of Armenia has adopted a decree which has already been submitted to President Robert Kocharian for ratification.

The Shikahogh reserve represents the habitat for about 1100 species of plants, 70 of which have been registered in the Red Book of Armenia and 18 in the Red Book of the former Soviet Union. The fauna of Shikahogh has not been explored completely but studies have already revealed rare species of animals such as leopards, bezoar, moufflon, bear, snowcock and vipers among others. Mtnadzor is the better preserved section of Shikahogh, covered with virgin forests. Breaking the conservation regime of Shikahogh will result in the mass destruction of these species and the surrounding habitat.

The passage of the road through the reserve violates several international conventions such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UN Convention on Biodiversity, UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the European Convention on Landscape which have been ratified by the Republic of Armenia. It also breaks various national laws such as those on Specially Protected Areas, on Flora and on Fauna while also contradicting the decrees of the RA Government such as the State Strategy and National Action Plan for Development of Specially Protected Natural Areas of Armenia adopted by Government Decree N54 and on the Master Plan of Settlement of the Republic of Armenia adopted by the Government Decree N610-N.

Construction of the freeway will also infringe upon the RA Law on Environmental Impact Expertise as there was no environmental impact assessment conducted for the concept of passage of the road through the natural reserve. Finally, construction activities have breach the requirements of the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention).

In the opinion of experts and non-governmental organizations there are alternatives to the road proposed by the “Transproject” CJSC, which are more expedient from the strategic and economic point of view and which will have less acute impacts on the environment.

Jeffrey Tufenkian
Armenian Forests NGO

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