We, the undersigned civil society representatives of the Republic of Armenia (RA) express our deep concern and indignation regarding the de-national nature of recent developments and illegal processes related to the environment in Armenia, in particular the decision on increasing water release from Lake Sevan up to the mark of 360 million cubic meters (which is twice as much as it was in previous years), adopted by the RA National Assembly on August 14 2008 upon the initiative of the RA Government.
We remind that Lake Sevan is the strategic freshwater reservoir of the Republic of Armenia as well as the region, and the actual use of the lake shall pursue the aim of restoration and preservation of this source of drinking water, taking into consideration drinking water scarcity in the whole world. Impeding the increase of the level of Lake Sevan for any purpose may be hazardous for the lake ecosystem.
We are convinced that the increase of water release from Lake Sevan and the consequent decrease of the lake’s level are in the interest of a group of individuals. The decision adopted in August 2008 is a precedent to raise the same issue in the following years and to impede the rise of lake’s level on various pretexts. The slow-down of the cleanup of the lake shores, delays in operation of Vorotan-Arpa tunnel, holdup of reconstruction of highways, speculation of emergency weather conditions, proposals on introducing amendments to the RA Law “On Lake Sevan”, and others serve the mentioned aim.
We are skeptical about the “expert conclusion” drawn by the Expert Commission on Lake Sevan and we cast doubts on the independence and incorruptibility of “experts” who concurred with the release of water, which would bring down the lake’s level and lead to its negative water balance.
We record that the enrollment of representatives of society into various councils and commissions founded by different institutions in RA, is, in fact, an imitation of democracy and transparency. The fatal for the most important strategic resource in the country decision has not been presented and discussed even in structures like the National Sustainable Development Council, which operates adjunct to the RA Prime Minister, founded with the aim of ensuring sustainable development of the country and balancing economic, social and environmental issues, or the Board of Experts of the Aarhus Center founded by the joint initiative of RA Ministry of Nature Protection and OSCE Office in Yerevan, aimed at fostering public participation in decision-making on environmental matters.
We state that the decision on doubling the water intake from Lake Sevan has been adopted by the RA Government and the RA National Assembly without a comprehensive study and scientific justification for the demand of water, without assessing possible damages to the environment as a result of such a measure as well as without adequate notification and engagement of stakeholders, including residents of coastal communities. This decision violates RA Constitution Article 10, RA Water Code Article 5, RA Law on Lake Sevan Article 11, RA Law on Environmental Impact Assessment Article 15 and UN Economic Commission for Europe Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters Articles 4, 7, 8.
We condemn the environment-related policies run by RA authorities and believe that they do not comply with their obligations prescribed by the RA Constitution on ensuring environmental protection, recovery as well as rational use of natural resources.
- to immediately restore in the RA Law on “Approval of Annual and Complex Measures on Conservation, Restoration, Reproduction, and Use of the Ecosystem of Lake Sevan” the maximal 170 million cubic meters water intake threshold, which has been established based on perennial research of scientific-research institutes rather than suspicious reasons given by a couple of institutions;
- to reveal and publicize the causes of water scarcity in Ararat Valley and the ways how the water of Azat and Aparan reservoirs has been spent in 2008,
- to undertake immediate actions on demolishing illegal constructions on the lakeside, organizing thorough cleanup of the shores and preparing those for the rise of the level of the lake;
§ to reveal the violations of RA legislation and to call to account those guilty, in particular the officials and others involved in corrupt transactions.
We inform that for us, the undersigned organizations, which represent the active stratum of the civil society, it would be possible to collaborate on environmental issues with relevant state bodies of the Republic of Armenia if:
- we do receive an appropriate response to our aforementioned demands;
- we get convinced that in environment-related decision-making the RA Government demonstrates political will and acts in compliance with the RA legislation and international commitments;
- we become confident that state bodies, indeed, take proper account of the NGOs’ opinions and comments rather than making their participation a futile imitation.
96 civil society organizations has signed the statement.