SOS for Trchkan, SOS for Sevan: Environmentalists concerned about industrial impact on Armenia’s water resources

Environmental movements that have been on the rise in Armenia of late manage to draw public attention, but still seem to be unable to stop the activities of the government and the private sector’s activities that harm nature.

For example, near the Government building on Thursday the Minister of Nature Protection told the green activists campaigning for the conservation of the waterfall in Trchkan that a hydropower plant will be built on top of the waterfall and will be in operation during spring months, while in summer the station’s owner will not utilize the waterfall.

“If the entrepreneur does not accept our restrictions, we should be able to offer some compensation to him,” Minister Aram Harutyunyan told media after a government session.

The Trchkan waterfall that was recognized as a natural monument in 2008 is located at the administrative border of Armenia’s northern provinces of Shirak and Lori. It is the tallest and most abundant waterfall in Armenia. In the case with Trchkan, environmentalists have all the legal arguments that expert findings on the waterfall had been given illegally and that it is prohibited by law to carry out activities on a natural monument that would do it harm and threaten its existence. But government officials and the businessman have been reluctant to lend an ear to these arguments so far.

The same day Minister Harutyunyan told Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan that the current construction activities for the station did not affect the waterfall and that during all months except for summer months the hydropower plant will be operated only if its water flow exceeds 400-500 liters per second.

The public seems to be skeptical of these assurances. Environmentalists bring the example of the Shaki waterfall in Syunik where water flows through the waterfall according at the station owner’s discretion.

Environmentalists also wonder how control will be exercised over the activities of the owner to make sure he complies with the rules or what will people who want to see the waterfall in spring do.

Environmental expert Armen Vermishyan says that if the station is operated “we will have a small brook rather than the Trchkan waterfall.”

During recent days Lake Sevan has also been an issue of environmental concerns. Initiators of the SOS Sevan Action insist that the activities of the grinding-sorting complex of the GeoProMining gold extraction company in Sotk, in the Sevan basin, increases lake pollution risks with a number of heavy and toxic elements.

In an interview with ArmeniaNow Ecolur NGO head Inga Zarafyan, who with a number of environmentalists visited Sotk on October 18, says that the grinding-sorting complex is being operated at its full capacity -- trucks approach the complex and they are loaded with gold-containing ore, they then ship it to the Ararat gold recovery factory and empty ground rock are dumped not far from the complex.

Environmentalists demand that the government stop those activities of GeoProMining as well as the activities of Gegamet Plus (a chromium-containing ore processing company located 2 kilometers from the Lake Sevan shore) and Mika Cement (operating on the Artanish peninsula and said to cause harm to the peninsula’s diverse natural landscape). They demand that a monitoring be conducted to find out whether the activities of these companies are in compliance with the provisions of the Law “On Lake Sevan”.