Emerald Candidate Areas in Armenia To Be Reduced

Emerald Candidate Areas in Armenia To Be Reduced

Botany Institute of after Armen Takhtajyan of NAS RA and Greek organization "KartECO" have started implementing "EU4Environment: Advancing the Establishment of the Emerald Network and Management of the Emerald Sites in Armenia" project, as a result of which the proposal on the final list of candidate areas for Emerald of Armenia will be submitted to RA Environment Ministry.

In 2016, Armenia proposed 23 emerald candidate areas, which covered 1,033,719.5 ha, or 34.7% of the country.  The process of revising these areas has been going on for several years now.

On March 17, 2023, Stakeholder and Public Engagement Workshop of "EU4Environment: Advancing the Establishment of the Emerald Network and Management of the Emerald Sites in Armenia" project took place at Botany Institute of after Armen Takhtajyan of NAS RA.

Director of Botany Institute of after Armen Takhtajyan of NAS RA, Arsen Gasparyan, welcomed the participants and noted: "Our institute jointly with Greek "CartECO" organization implements this project with the aim of taking one step forward the process of establishing Emerald areas in Armenia and promoting this network in Armenia.

Arsen Gasparyan

Head of Department of Geobotany and Ecophysiology at Botany Institute of after Armen Takhtajyan of NAS RA, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor Georgy Faivush, noted that "In 2016, very large areas were included that were not so targeted. For example, in the southern area there are two Emerald candidate areas, which include a city, mine, road infrastructure. It will be very difficult to manage these areas, and there are no species protected by the Bern Convention in these areas. That is why in 2018-2019 we started the optimization process of these areas. We propose to have 28 territories, which will cover 15% of Armenia. In this case, I can say that they include enough populations and species," he said. Currently, the proposed 28 Emerald candidate areas will total 425,845.7 ha or 15.3% of the country.

Georgi Fayvush

In her interview with EcoLur, Alla Aleksanyan, Project Coordinator from Botany Institute of after Armen Takhtajyan of NAS RA, noted that the scientific team of the Project considered the Emerald Candidate Areas reviewed by specialists in 2018-2019 and has already sent its version of the Emerald Candidate Areas optimization to the Environment Ministry based on that data.

Alla Aleksanyan

To EcoLur's question, whether the boundaries of Emerald "Djermuk area" where the Amulsar gold-bearing quartzite mine development project is located, as well as "Gorhayk area" on which the Amular project may have an impact, have been changed, Alla Aleksanyan said, "Jermuk", "Gorhayk" areas remain, but they have undergone changes. I think that proposal should be put up for open discussion, and relevant opinions should be gathered, so that there is no conflict of interests, no disagreement."
Reminder: In March 2020, Andrey Ralev, on behalf of "Ecolur" Informational NGO, Armenian  Forests NGO,  Green Armenia NGO and  CEE Bankwatch  Network, filed a complaint to the Bern Convention Secretariat. The complaint particularly said that the Armenian Government has violated Article 4, point 1 and 2, Article 5 and Article 6 of the Bern Convention by issuing permits to the Amulsar Gold Project and allowing significant impact on protected habitats and species from Resolution No. 4 (1996) and Resolution No. 6 (1998) of the Standing Committee. The project is situated within and has already impacted territories of Emerald Site "Djermuk" area AM0000009 and could have further significant impacts on other Emerald sites: "Sevan" National park AM0000002 and "Gorhajk" area AM0000002, all three adopted as candidate sites by the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention. Armenian Government disregarded procedures for evaluation of projects impacting Emerald sites by not doing proper assessment on protected species and habitats, and the EIA reports applied methodologies that violate the Bern Convention and are incompatible with the Emerald Network.

In this regard, RA Deputy Environment Minister Irina Ghaplanyan’s letter no. 4/08.8/8058 dated on 21.07.2020 says that in   2017  the   "Emerald Network"  new  list  of candidate  sites  for  Armenia  was presented  to the  Secretariat  of the Convention  (uploaded  to the site). The submitted list of candidate sites was developed jointly by specialists and experts, and  it was  suggested  both-  to enlarge the  borders of previously submitted   sites  and include  new  ones.  As  a result,  the  new  list  of candidate  sites  constituted  23  potential sites  with  more  than  1 million  ha  of  area,   which  comprises  34,7   %   of  the  entire territory of the Republic of Armenia including "Djermuk" area, "Sevan" National  park, "Gorhajk"  area  and  other  sites  where  major  industrial  and  economic  activities  are underway. The abovementioned  list of candidate  sites was  not officially agreed  neither with the Ministry of Environment (formerly Ministry of Nature Protection),  nor circulated with other relevant  state  national  authorities  prior  to submission  to the Secretariat  of the Bern   Convention.     We  are  currently  investigating  this  procedural   breach  and  will consecutively  be taking respective measures to address it.

Then, former Deputy Minister of Environment Anna Mazmanyan sent 2 letters to the Secretariat of the Berne Convention in 2021, calling the negative effects of the Amulsar project mentioned in the complaint of a group of non-governmental organizations unfounded. Presenting the view point of the Ministry of Environment, Anna Mazmanyan did not refer to any document or scientific research. 

The Bureau of "Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Environment" (Bern Convention) once again proposes to RA Government to stop any development that may negatively affect the habitats and species protected by the Bern Convention, regardless of the fact whether or not they are included in the Emerald Network areas.

The issue of the protection of habitats and species of Armenia was discussed at the meeting held in April 2022 of the Bern Convention Bureau, based on the complaint filed to the Secretariat of the Berne Convention in 2020 by "EcoLur" Informational NGO, "Forests of Armenia", "Green Armenia" NGOs and the CEE Bankwatch Network represented by the independent expert on biodiversity Andrey Ralph. The complaint shows how RA government has ignored the significant impacts on the flora and fauna of the three Emerald Candidate Areas of Special Environmental Interest (SEI) of the Amulsar gold mine project in Jermuk, Gorhayq and Lake Sevan.

Once again, the Bureau expressed its concern at the expected large reduction in size of Emerald Network coverage in Armenia and again urged the authorities to clarify when the revised list would likely be ready and submitted to the Secretariat.  
The Bureau also noted, however, the concerns of the complainant, namely the lack of  transparency and participation of NGOs and experts in the revision of the Emerald Network, the need for a new environmental and social impact assessment of the Amulsar gold mine project, as well as the need to establish the Jermuk National Park which should include all areas of the Amulsar gold mine project.

The Bureau reiterated its recommendation to halt any developments that could negatively affect the habitats and species protected under the Convention, whether it pertains to an Emerald Network site or not. The Bureau further reiterated its request for the results of the conducted assessments showing that the project would not bring any negative impacts on species and habitats.
Noting with concern the deficiencies in the environmental impact assessment and the lack of involvement of NGOs and experts, the Bureau requested the authorities to clarify how those deficiencies had been approached.

The case remained on stand-by. Both parties were invited to submit reports for the Bureau meeting in Spring 2023. https://www.ecolur.org/hy/news/mining/14543/

March 21, 2023 at 12:19