Whose Interests Nature Protection Ministry Protects

Whose Interests Nature Protection Ministry Protects

EcoLur has received a letter from Nature Protection Ministry of Armenia, no. 5/12.1/53751 dated on 25.11.2013 signed by Staff Head Edgar Pirumyan, which says, “In reply to your materials published on 18 and 20 November we state that Nature Protection Ministry doesn’t create any conflicts with its activities. The Ministry guides itself exclusively with the legal relations regulated by the law. In your materials you try to pass the desirable for reality. The Ministry publishes all the information relevant to this field on its official website in proper and timely manner. The Ministry also disseminated weekly press releases about its current activities. You can get the information you are interested in from the website of the ministry and regular press releases.”

The letter doesn’t mention the concrete publication on www.ecolur.org website, but we can guess from the content of the letter, that it refers to the conflict in Martz Village in regard with the “Martziget-1” SHPP in construction progress. Thus, on 18 and 20 November published materials on this topics and accused the officials of escalating the conflict, particularly in the material entitled “Officials Bearing Responsibility For Conflict in Martz Village” dated on 20 November http://ecolur.org/en/news/biodiversity/officials-bearing-responsibility-for-conflict-in-martz-village/5534/.

We would like to draw Staff Head Edgar Pirumyan’s attention to the fact that the information we are interested in is concealed from public and we can’t get it from Nature Protection Ministry event through enquiries. Thus on 28 March 2013 EcoLur addressed an enquiry to Nature Protection Ministry, which particularly said, “”EcoLur” Informational NGO took part in the following public hearings: 1. 05.02.2013- “Gndevanq” SHHP, 19.02.2013 – “Daranak” SHHP, 22.02.2013 – Shorzha mine development, 22.02.2013 – Artanish mine development, 12.03.2013 – “Martziget-1” SHPP, 19.03.2013 – “Nane” SHHP. In line with Article 10 (4) of RA Law “On Environmental Impact Expert Assessment” we would like to ask you to provide the copies of the minutes of the public hearings and stakeholders’ opinions on the projects.”

The Nature Protection Ministry refused to provide the minutes, including the minutes of Martziget-1SHPP. It should be mentioned that the Ministry’s refusal to provide the minutes of the public hearings promoted enhancing non-transparency of decision-making process on this project. Two contradictory documents were sent to the Ministry:  the first was the minutes of the public hearings, which was signed a week after the hearings by a group of people, who didn’t take part in the hearings /we have all the proof/. The second document is the letter by the villagers opposing to the construction of the SHPP.

Then, the Nature Protection Ministry sent a working group to Martz Village, which started persuading the villagers to agree to the construction /we have the record of the villagers/. This means that the ministry has already interfered into the conflict and not “at the level of legal relations regulated by the law.” The Ministry granted a positive opinion to the project not taking into consideration the project risks, the opinions of the local residents, and the grounds of this opinion were also not publicized. A question arises: whose interests the Ministry protects? This question is not an accidental one, as the events in Martz Village take place very drastically: on 5 May 2013 the villagers threw the pipes designed for Martziget SHPP into the river. In August 2013 the villagers applied to the Territorial Anticorruption Center of Interest Protection located in Vanadzor Town complaining that the construction of Martziget-1 SHPP bears high corruption risks. Then, a group of supporters of SHPP owner arrived in the village to intimidate the villagers. On 17 November the environmental activists visited the village to support the villagers.

Nature Protection Ministry should pay attention to what happens after the permits are issued and to change the policy in granting permitting documents to the projects having hazardous impact on environment, health and safety.

14:01 December 02, 2013


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