"Forest Inventory Must Be Immediately Carried out in Armenia: We Don't Know What We Have": Environmental Lawyer Nazeli Vardanyan

"Forest Inventory Must Be Immediately Carried out in Armenia: We Don't Know What We Have": Environmental Lawyer Nazeli Vardanyan

Inventory of forests in Armenia must be carried otu immediately, otherwise the programs and measures implemented in the field will not have any results. Nazeli Vardanyan, Director of “Forests of Armenia” NGO, said during a panel discussion on "Forest Problems and Solutions in Armenia Having a Climate Regulatory Role" held at EcoLur Press Club on May 3, 2021, when making the presentation of "Public Assessment on State of Forest" report.

"Accounting is the key to all problems. Different organizations give different numbers. The last forest survey was conducted in 1993. According to it, the forest fund amounted to 459.9 thousand hectares, which is 11.2% of the territory of Armenia. According to NASA data from space for 2001, the forest occupies 246,099 hectares in the territory of Armenia, 7-8% of the country is covered with forests.

According to FAO report for 2008, forest cover is 6.8%, although governmental agencies continue to report 11.2%. "Today we do not know exactly how much forest area there is," Nazeli Vardanyan said. According to Nazeli Vardanyan, the quality of forests has significantly deteriorated in recent years. "The average efficiency of forests was 3.6, now it is less than 3. The average forest fullness was 0.55, now it is 0.3. It is no longer a forest, it is sparse. The species composition of forests has changed: high-quality beech and oak forests have turned into low-quality forests,” she said.

According to international standards, the area of ​​forest habitat ensuring the full activity of one person is 0.67 hectares, and in Armenia it is 0.1 hectares.

In recent years, permits for 35-45 thousand cubic meters have been issued annually for sanitary felling. Nazeli Vardanyan, however, mentioned that in fact each year is illegally cut 15-20 times more than it is allowed.

Today, mass illegal logging in Armenia has led to a number of problems, such as the destruction of the forest ecosystem, climate change, reduced oxygen supply, land degradation, contributing to the desertification of about 80% of the country, loss of water regulatory functions of ecosystems.

As quality management of forests and forest use problems, the speaker mentioned the inaccuracies of cadastral data of forest lands, forest-covered areas, unsatisfactory condition of the works aimed at prevention of forest restoration and degradation of forest areas,
ineffectiveness of the actions of the relevant bodies involved in the processes aimed at the prevention of illegal deforestation, the lack of substantiation of sufficient changes of forest land categories by the Government of the Republic of Armenia, the non-transparency of information on the forest sector.

Touching upon the issue of changing the category of forest lands, Nazeli Vardanyan noted that "RA government, under the name of changes in the category of forest lands, has contributed to the destruction of RA forests for many years." In particular, the speaker brought the example of Teghut. "Teghut CJSC has officially cut down 357 hectares of forest on the grounds of public eminent domain for the development of Teghut copper-molybdenum mine and the construction of infrastructure. Instead, the company undertook to plant 714 hectares of forest, which it has not do."

There were similar examples in the areas of "ArmForest" and "Arevik" National Parks. By the resolution of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, 24.42-hectare plot out of 51-hectare  land in "Erebuni" forestry was handed over from "ArmForest" SNCO to Yerevan community for the construction of a new landfill site in Nubarashen. 186.4 hectares of the territory of "Arevik" National Park have been allocated to the mining company for Meghrasar gold mining. "4.26 hectares of forest area has been allocated from "Arevik" National Park for the construction of the corresponding Iran-Armenia 400 kV overhead power transmission line and corresponding substation," she said.

Touching upon the institutional problems of forests, Nazeli Vardanyan mentioned that State Forest Committee should be an independent body in the government.

At the end of her speech, the speaker presented proposals for the improvement of the forest sector, which were published in the verdict of the Environmental Public Court on the environmental public case "On Violations of Forest Ecosystem of Armenia".

May 21, 2021 at 17:21