Water Dispute: Environmentalists/Ombudsman concerned over law on Lake Sevan

Amendments to legislation that allow additional drainage from Lake Sevan are in the focus of environmentalists and Armenia’s ombudsman.

This summer amendments to RA Law “On Establishing Annual and Complex Program for Restoration, Protection, Reproduction and Use of Lake Sevan Ecosystems” were adopted, under which in 2012, annual water outlets from Lake Sevan will be increased from 170 million cubic meters to 320 million cubic meters.

State officials consider the new bill to be necessary and nonhazardous, and the Ministry of Nature Protection claims that the additional water outlet from Lake Sevan will not result in the decrease of the lake level. But environmentalists consider taking even one cubic meter of water from the lake to be unacceptable and believe that additional water outlets from Lake Sevan are not connected with lack of water. The bill’s critics say it is done because the rise in Lake Sevan’s level will cause damage to hotels and restaurants, which belong to a number of officials.

Levon Azizyan, head of Hydrology Center of Haypethydromet Service stated last week that the snowy winter and rainy spring were followed by gradual rise in temperature, there was no intensive snow melting, which caused less lake water.

“During the recent years the level of Lake Sevan has been rising by 50 centimeters as a result of spring thaw, however this year it rose only by 23 centimeters. It is linked with only 50 percent of precipitations in April-May. These precipitations were quite few and they did not affect the water flow [to Lake Sevan] significantly,” Azizyan said.

Armenian Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) Karen Andreasyan also voiced his concerns over the Sevan issue and made a statement which says: “The ignorance of set procedural rules in case of decision-making in environmental matters is impermissible, which result in the violation of information accessibility, transparency of decision-making, public participation principles. The draft amendments to legislation on Lake Sevan were adopted hastily, without organizing public hearings, without publishing the viewpoints of interested ministries and bodies, without submitting to the Human Rights Defender’s office.”