government official promises that this New Year's
Eve Armenians will celebrate around fir trees
cut from some place other than their own country.
The growing business of holiday trees and the
lingering effects of de-forestation caused by
indiscriminate cutting during the severe winters
of a decade ago have given nature lovers and ecologists
reason to fear for the future of Armenia's evergreens.
According to the order of the Minister of Nature
Protection Vardan Aivazyan this year not one conifer
will be cut in Armenia's forests, as the forests
suffered enough from dark and cold years.
Aivazyan says his office will cooperate with
the Yerevan Municipality and Dues Department to
protect the trees.
"With our joint efforts we'll try to exclude
cutting of fir trees in the territory of the Republic
of Armenia as much as possible," Aivazyan
The Mayor of Yerevan has joined the campaign
to stop the cutting by announcing stricter guidelines
for holiday tree selling in the capital.
"This year it will not be allowed to sell
fir trees in every street and under each tree,"
Mayor Robert Nazaryan said. "Every community
will have its trade outlet."
Those who violate the ban on cutting will face
fines of 150,000 drams (about $260) per tree.
At issue is the concern that holiday festivities
are ruining Armenia's forests.
The tradition of starting the new year with a
fresh green tree has, in recent years, created
a less festive tradition of losing a valuable
according to the president of the Union of Greens:
"This means to start the year with vandalism
committed towards nature," says Hakob Sanasaryan.
Officially Armenia's forestland is only 11 percent
of the total countryside and activists worry it
is incapable of sustaining further cutting.
"The figure is not very precise, as it
is 10 years since any serious exploration have
been done, while during the last 10 years relatively
more trees have been cut than before," says
head of the press service of HaiAntar State closed
joint stock company Artsrun Pepanyan.
With the permission of HaiAntar, 30,000 and 15,000
pines (the only sort of conifer in Armenia) were
cut for celebrations of the 2001 and 2002 New
But concerned environmentalists say these figures
are just written on a paper, and only those who
cut and sell pine trees know how many trees were
actually cut and how many trees were thrown into
One businessman, who wanted to remain anonymous
in order not to harm his further activities, proves
the opinion of Sanasaryan with his own experience.
He assures that the number of pine trees sold
only by him during the last year was 16,000.
Sanasaryan says neither the number nor the quality
and age of the trees is being considered in the
harvesting for holiday trees.
Mostly 20 to 30 year old pines are being sold
at the trade outlets. If taken into account that
pines live for 300 years, then the healthiest,
fluffiest and youngest trees are being cut. Some
only have tops removed, but even that process
causes the entire tree to die.
The Union of Greens has implemented an education
program aimed at helping teenagers learn the value
of trees and to discourage the practice of using
destroyed pines for holiday entertainment. The
Union encouraged residents to grow their own holiday
trees for perpetual use and gave out seeds and
growing instruction for that purpose.
The anti-cutting campaigns do not, however, mean
that Armenians will celebrate New Year without
the smell of young fir trees. As in past years
trees will be imported from Georgia, Russia and
But the price of the imports is two to three
times higher than native stock. Yerevantsis looking
to have a green New Year can expect to pay from
about $12-20 for the privilege.