After the formation of the new government, the environmental society held discussions in different forums and drafted proposals for the government. The sector-related problems, risks and their proposals were presented by Inga Zarafyan – President of 'EcoLur' Informational NGO, Levon Galstyan – Member of Armenian Environmental Front, Arthur Grigoryan - President of 'EcoRight' NGO and Karine Danielyan – President 'For Sustainable Human Development' NGO at the discussion held at Media Center on 22 May.
'Our first demand is to increase the accountability of the government before the civil society. The second demand is to ensure transparency, while the third one is to discuss all the governmental programs and decisions with the civil society,' Inga Zarafyan – President of 'EcoLur' Informational NGO, said.
Out of urgent problems, Inga Zarafyan highlighted the mining sector focusing on Amulsar and Teghout mining projects. The package of the proposals submitted to the government offers to annul the positive opinion issued by RA Nature Protection Ministry in 2016 to Amulsar gold mining project. In case of Teghout copper and molybdenum mine, to recognize the responsibility of the government and 'Teghout' CJSC for the elimination of environment in Shnogh community area in Lori Region, pollution of transboundary waters and decrease in the social welfare of the local population, as well as to assess the extent of the caused damage, to ensure the recovery of relevant sums of money to RA state budget, to obligate the company administration to present a new plan aimed at the prevention of soil degradation, forest elimination and water pollution and to obligate to pay compensation for the caused damage to the local residents.
Levon Galstyan – Member of Armenian Environmental Front, outlined, 'The mining we have in Armenia provides only 3% of the GDP, on average, and creates around 10,000 temporary workplaces. All the taxes are temporary, as the mines in Armenia last only 5-10 years. We have only 2 or 3 mines, which can be operated for 50 years or over. We should judge reasonably whether temporary social and other benefits brought by new mines can be compatible with the damage they have. Today we have 4-5 mines, which were issued permits, but these mines were operated for half a year or a year, but then there stayed derelict, as the amount of the reserves, economic effects were not compliant with the projects. The same happened in Teghout in disastrous extents, as it was a large mine. Amulsar will face the same situation, as the reserves claimed in Amulsar projects don't comply with the reality, and everything is based on unreliable data. The assessed reserves of the mine under Category C2 make up 73 tons of gold, which means the mine may turn out to have 30 tons of gold and not 73 tons of gold after mine is opened. It's called geological risks, and if something like that is found out there is no liability mechanism. The same is happening in Meghri, in the surroundings of Kapan. The processes are in progress, but we still haven't received a message from the new government that we are ready for certain steps rather than developing laws and assignments.'
Arthur Grigoryan - President of 'EcoRight' NGO, spoke about the economic and social component of mining and presented several indicators from mining benefits. 'GDP of 2.5%, labour market of around 0.8% when the indicator of agriculture is 15%. There is only one indicator, which is stressed out all the time: mining ensures around 1/3 of the exported products from Armenia – around US $ 600 million. Armenia exports ore, which has undergone primary treatment in the best case. This is not an example how important mining is for the economy, but an example what situation the mining is in. All this shows there is no economy in Armenia. New PM Nikol Pashinyan spoke about the vision of Armenia' development at the National Assembly – tourism development as a prospect to develop the economy, as well as agriculture. These two sectors are most vulnerable to mining,' Arthur Grigoryan said.
He also spoke about the corruption risks in the mining sector bringing certain examples, 'Geghi mine is located in a picturesque area. Ex Syunik Regional Governor received the permits, the mine operated for a while, polluted everything whatever it was possible to pollute, then the mine was sold to Qajaran Combine, which closed the mine and left. They didn't need this mine. In this case, why they purchased the mine, why these permits were issued, whether there are no corruption risks, problems related to money laundering, maybe they needed to pay certain amounts of money to certain people and it was to be done through transactions so as to legalize the money flows. The same mechanism works in case of other mines: Tashtoun mine was opened and then immediately closed down, I am sure Litchq mine will also be stopped. Their aim is not to operate the mines, moreover, not to operate them in line with the standards and to ensure results for the economy, their aim is to regulate matters concerning money flow.'
Karine Danielyan – President 'For Sustainable Human Development' NGO mentioned that mining is the riskiest sector in terms of healthcare, as proved by many studies. She said that under the previous authorities Health Ministry always remained far from environmental problems and expressed a hope that the new government will demonstrate another approach.
Out of urgent problems Lake Sevan, Ararat Valley, forests and SHPPs were stressed out. 'Each year the issue of additional water intake from Lake Sevan rises. We are demanding to exclude this item from the agenda at all, as Lake Sevan is already in a very poor state. Lake Sevan should be a priority for us. We have a law on Lake Sevan and this law must be enforced.
Ararat Valley is in a disastrous situation because of the fish farms and this problem is still not solved. The water problem in Ararat Valley mustn't be solved at the expense of Lake Sevan. People who have issued permits must be made liable and the State Committee on Water Industry must change management methods. Forests are eliminated, as people say they need to heat their houses. This problem must also be solved ultimately, and the gas price must be reduced.
We should also cease uncontrollable operation of SHPPs, which need another kind of control.
For such countries as Armenia is, which have a small geographical area, serious biodiversity, hydrological network, geographical structure etc, environmental security equals to military security. If you can retain the area due to military actions, the area lost in terms of environment can't be recovered at all. Unless this mentality is changed, it will be very hard to expect for changes,' Inga Zarafyan said.
20:05 May 23, 2018