ArmeniaNow.com - Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
June 04, 2004




Special Report

Armenia and the Environment: The Challenges of Ecological Integrity in a Developing Republic


Any person wants to breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat ecologically clean food, and live in a safe environment. At present, all this is impossible in Armenia.

The republic has its share of environmental problems, including a nuclear power plant subject to contradicting assessments, polluted rivers, reservoirs on the verge of collapse, green zones victimized as a result of construction works.

As part of a seminar on environmental issues, a group of Armenian and foreign journalists investigated some of the problems and prepared the articles in this special section.

Split into three small groups, the journalists studied the quality of drinking water, the state of Yerevan green zones, and the Metsamor Power Plant.

A report on the South Caucasus will be introduced in September that will point out environmental problems jeopardizing human health, economic and regional safety. Participants of the Coverage of Environmental Problems international practical training courses were the first to see these dangers on the map.

The report titled “Environmental Safety Initiative” was worked out with the financial assistance of the UNDP, UNEP and OSCE, which have devoted $150,000 for the implementation of the first stage.

The report reflects the three priority problems of Armenia’s environment: the salted land plots of the Ararat valley, the technically frail state of two Armenian reservoirs, and the pollution of the borderline Arax and Debed rivers.

These problems are of regional significance, because if the reservoirs decay not only the populated areas of Armenia will be flooded but also those of Georgia and Azerbaijan. That catastrophe may deteriorate the tense relations between the neighbors. The Debed River, which is principally polluted by the wastes of the copper-molybdenum mill of Alaverdi, as well as household trash, flows into Kura. Azerbaijan uses the waters of the Kura River for drinking. The Ararat valley yields the main agricultural harvest stored up in Armenia, and the saltiness of the land plots drastically reduce the yield.

The presence of these and other environmental problems make their coverage important. But more important than the TV, radio and press coverage is the fact that people will be informed and will raise their voice to demand that the authorities find possible solutions.

The Metsamor Power Plant causes unrest in the region as Armenia’s neighbors are concerned about its safety. As readers will see, this causes problems also with the EU, which is one of the main financial donors of Armenia. The inclination of the EU to establish special relations with Armenia is also in peril.

Green zones ensuring the beauty of the city of Yerevan are the main factors that make living here pleasant. However, these zones are the daily victims of urban construction. Our journalists found that the right of people to live in green environments is violated due to the imperfection of legislation, the idleness of officials and politicians, as well as due to corruption.

The World Bank has announced allotting a new credit for fixing the water supply systems of over 300 Armenian populated areas. The bank considers the stage of developing the water supply systems of Yerevan finished. The situation has really improved but the water tariff has risen, and not everybody is happy about it.

Media coverage of environmental issues has much room for improvement. It is hoped that the articles in this report will serve as stimuli for further debate of these crucial matters.

These are the following journalistic teams preparing items for Armenianow.com:

The power plant team

Karine Danielyan, Azg daily
Karine Asatryan, A1+ TV Company
Gayane Mkrtchyan, Armenianow.com
Galust Nanyan, Hayastani Hanrapetutiun daily

The green zones team

Armanush Niazyan, Ankyun+3 TV Company
Lusine Ohanyan, Aravot daily
Aida Gevorgyan, The Caucasian Nature weekly
Ani Baghdasaryan, Tsayg TV Company

The drinking water team

Nelli Danielyan, Yerkir-Media TV Company
Armine Mkrtchyan, Media Group media NGO
Ashot Gareginyan, Theoretical and Practical Management magazine

Photos by: Artur Torosyan, Armenianow.com, "Photolure" Photo News Agency
Deputy editor Taguhi Susliyan

Team heads

Paul Brown, The Guardian ( UK)
Kieran Cook, Financial Times, BBC ( UK)
John Bennett, Principal of Bennett & Associates ( USA)

The training courses were organized and assisted by the Caucasus Media Institute in partnership with Grid-Avendal.


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