- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 May 9, 2003 

Starting Over: Tree planting project aimed at undoing destruction

Director Tufenkian and village leager Ajvazyan joined the planting ceremony..

To the music of Armenian traditional instruments, 70-year old Boris Ghahramyan raised a young seedling in his hands and new life began in the Lori Mountains to the sound of the zurna and dhol on May 2.

Ghahramyan joined his fellow villagers of Odzun to start a new forest in the one that has been destroyed by necessity and carelessness.

The first community forest in the republic has been founded by villagers, officials, students and representatives of international organizations, thanks to the Tufenkian Foundation's "Forests of Armenia" project.

"It is wonderful to see the music and man dancing with the trees," said the director of the project, Jeffrey Tufenkian. "I think many things will change in Odzun village. The future of Odzun is being founded, the forest is being founded."

Head of the Odzun village Melik Ajvazyan says great damage has been done to the woodlands of Odzun, starting with the energy crises of a decade ago.
The 6,000 residents of the village indiscriminately cut trees for firewood, destroying some 200 hectares of forest in the process.

"The damage is very significant," Ajvazyan says. "But today it's a real holiday for us, because though we had chopped tree by ourselves, today we have gotten the opportunity to correct our mistakes and restore everything."

Andranik Ghilihjanyan, director of the Science and Research Center of the Ministry of Environment Protection says it is hoped this action will cause many changes in the environment of the village.

Village boys dragged saplings up the hill for planting..

"Larger trees will be planted such as maple, oaks, pine, ash, beech, wild nut and pear trees, as well as other trees," Dulijanyan said. "It will restore the green zone of the village and of the forest."

The deforestation of the one village reflects a widespread problems throughout Armenia. Nazeli Vardanyan of Forests of Armenia, says that Odzun was not a random choice for a new forest, but was chosen based on many factors.

Vardanyan says the entire eco system of Odzun has suffered because the trees have been felled. For example, springs have dried up and soil has eroded, increasing the risk of mudslides.

"During one month 125,000 trees will be planted on the territory of 100 hectares, creating the first communal forest in Armenia," Vardanyan says. "The community becomes owner of the forest and gets rights to manage, work and supervise it. The forest will be of both environmental and sanitary and serious economic importance."

Planting and maintaining the forest will provide about 250 jobs for villagers.

Someday, it will all be trees again.

"There is gas available in the village, however many villagers have no possibilities to pay for gas," Vardanyan says. "Thanks to this project villagers will be able to solve that problem as well without having to cut trees."

Garegin Davtyan from Odzun is glad to be a part of such a project.

"This project is a great light in our lives," he says. "Tree planting is something that can please God and the 1,200 drams (about $2) that I earn daily can satisfy the needs of my big family."

Villager Gagik Najaryan has an 11-member family and sees the new forest as a legacy.

"We are grateful that such an attention was paid to our village," he says. "There used to be a magnificent nature here and now we do everything for our grandchildren so they could also see nature and forests and enjoy the results of their grandfathers' work."


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Day of Remembrance

May 9 is Victory Day, when Armenia remembers its war veterans with ceremonies that include laying carnations and standing in formation near the Eternal Flame above Yerevan.



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