Water deficit, problems of sustainable water use and preservation of water ecosystems are the most urgent topics for Armenia. The river ecosystems in Armenia are overloaded with SHPPs. There are 184 SHPPs operated in Armenia with an aggregate capacity of 353 MW, another 36 SHPPs are being constructed with an aggregate capacity of 69 MW. It turns out that the aggregate capacity of 400 MW of SHPPs planned in RA Hydropower Development Concept Paper has been overperformed.
The small hydropower problems and proposed solutions were discussed on 26 June at UN Armenia at the presentation of "Supporting new reforms in SHPP sector through CSO-government dialogue" project implemented with the support of UNDP/GEF.
UNDP Sustainable Growth and Resilience Portfolio Manager Armen Martirosyan said in his welcome speech, 'The most important achievement is the establishment of a cooperation platform: this project involves all stakeholder ministries, independent experts, NGOs, which discuss sector-related problems in a transparent and open manner.' Armen Martirosyan noted that a huge SHPP database had been created as a result of the project and outlined that the project made a proposal to make the activities of the SHPP Multi-Stakeholder Council continuous and to make it adjunct to Armenian Deputy Prime Minister.
RA Deputy Nature Protection Minister Gnel Sanosyan mentioned, 'We have SHPPs in specially protected areas of nature and in Sevan basin. I can assure you from now on all the SHPPs, which will make violations, will be strictly punished. Now we have information about over 20 SHPPs, which have taken water more than permitted. This information has been sent to the inspection and we will be able to see the results in near future.'
Gnel Sanosyan added there are problems with the data provided by Hydromet Service. The data on the river resources in Armenia are exaggerated: 'For example, it says the river has 200 l/s water, but there is no such water in nature,' Sanosyan said and referred to the problem of SHPPs constructed on the Yeghegis River. 'The SHPP owners on the Yeghegis River complain why the water of Arpa-Sevan tunnel is sent to Sevan from the Yeghegis and why we don't allow their SHPPs to operate. We have to explain to them that the Arpa-Sevan tunnel is included in the drainage basin of Lake Sevan and this water should flow into Lake Sevan and not into SHPPs in line with RA Law on Lake Sevan,' the Deputy Minister said.
"Supporting new reforms in SHPP sector through CSO-government dialogue" project coordinator from Nature Protection Ministry Ashot Avalyans said 'After the accomplishment of the first project we started having meetings with SHPP owners upon Deputy Minister Simon Papyan's initiative, proposals were made and some arrangements were reached. We have launched this process and will be more persistent in the future.'
Daniel Stepanyan, Head of Renewable Energy Unit of Energy Department of RA Ministry for Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources, said that the project proposals will definitely promote the reform process implemented by the state in SHPP sector, particularly, in terms of effective use of water resources, as well as preservation of water ecosystems and sustainable use. 'Currently, the effective use of water resources is still problematic, particularly in terms of the equipment installed in SHPPs. Most SHPPs install relatively cheap equipment of local production, which is not-certified, which leads to the non-effective or non-regulated use of hydropower resources in the country. The conclusion reasons that all this happens because of no technical regulation of equipment installed in SHPPs. On behalf of the Armenian Government, relevant proposals have been made to the Eurasian Economic Union, as the technical regulation is currently within the scope of the unified market formed in the frames of the union.'
Founding Director of Armenian Energy Agency Hayk Harutyunyan noted, 'We must understand that the problems in SHPP sector can be solved, but certain measures must be taken. We need clear technical standards, relevant conditions for investment so as SHPPs can be re-equipped and all environmental standards are ensured.'
SHPP Multi-Stakeholder Council member Tamara Babayan outlined, 'It doesn't matter how much we tried but we couldn't make SHPP Development Scheme mandatory, there is not even one SHPP in Vayots Dzor and Sevan basin operating with this scheme.'
Project expert Inessa Gabayan noted that in 2011 a project was implemented in SHPP sector with the support of the Norwegian government, where this sector was studied, international experience, the weak and strong sides were presented, as well as a report with proposals, which are still pressing.
Another project expert Armen Gevorgyan considered the damage caused to ecosystems as irreversible, which can't be recovered anymore. Project expert Samvel Pipoyan raised the problem of the environmental flow. Under him, the environmental flow must be seasonal: 'The fish flow up to the upper reach of the river for spawning, which requires the certain power of the water, which mainly can't be ensured with the environmental flow left in the river.'
Change in water temperature is a signal for the fish for reproduction, but when small lakes are formed in the river for SHPP construction, the water gets warmer in this section and the fish loses the signals. We have here environmental problems not only in terms of water quantity but quality. Member of Armenian Environmental Front, geographer Levon Galstyan noted that the sector needs radical reforms, 'So as to assess the situation correctly, we need basic data how much water there is in the rivers of Armenia, but we don't have these data in case of 70% of the rivers, while SHPPs are constructed on such rivers, which don't have energetic resources and their operation leads to the elimination of these rivers.'
Project Expert Heriqnaz Mkrtchyan said that it is necessary to set requirements and methodologies towards environmental impact assessment, which will make the requirements of RA Law 'On Environmental Impact Assessment and Expertise' clearer.
Project Expert Roza Julhakyan spoke about the need to urgently have eco passports for SHPPs. 'The sample of the eco-passport consists of two parts: the first one is technical and economic, while the second part is environmental, which includes both the monitoring, self-monitoring, and results of the inspections by competent inspection body.
Draft governmental resolution "On Approving Form of SHPP Environmental Passports and Guide of Provision" envisages who is responsible and who should record the data etc. The draft resolution gives solutions in this regard,' Roza Julhakyan said. She called for all stakeholder ministries to put this draft into circulation, as it includes solutions to many problems.
WWF Armenia Director Karen Manvelyan informed that they had created maps of freshwater in terms of Armenian biodiversity, 'For example, German KfW Bank sends us the coordinated of the SHPP to be constructed, we compare it on the map, if the SHPP is located the specifically protected areas of nature, we propose not to fund this project and they reject it.
Supporting new reforms in SHPP sector through CSO-government dialogue" project coordinator Inga Zarafyan thanked the experts and members of the SHPP Multi-Stakeholder Council for their successful work and presented the main outcomes of the project.
To be continued.
15:48 June 27, 2018