On 5 February 2019, the Public Environmental Court examined the case on violating the balance groundwater resources in Ararat artesian basin based on the application filed by Armenian Environmental Front Member Levon Galstyan. The member judges are environmental lawyer Nazeli Vardanyan, ethnographer and publicist Hranush Kharatyan, human rights defender Zaruhi Hovhannisyan and President of 'EcoLur' Informational NGO Inga Zarafyan.
Applicant Levon Galstyan noted that the following image is available as a result of the overexploitation of water resources in Ararat artesian basin:
1. Decrease in the surface of the groundwater area with positive pressure in the Ararat artesian basin by three times – from 32,760 ha in 1983 to 10,706 ha in 2013. As a result, thirty-one communities have partially or completely got deprived of irrigation and drinking water received from deep gushing wells.
2. The decrease in the potentiometric surface level of 303 deep gushing wells and reduction of yields by up to 10 times. 122 wells used for drinking/household and/or irrigation purposes are not gushing ones.
3. Reduction in levels in Masis area by 3.9-15 meters, which is accompanied by the decrease in water expenses by 43.7-198 l/s.
4. The decrease in the yields of Sevjur-Aknalitch springs for 1983-2013 by almost 6 times. The operation of Metsamor nuclear power plant and the irrigation of 8180 ha of land areas in 29 communities are endangered.
5. 127 wells drilling for fish farming are not gushing ones.
6. Additional water intake from Lake Sevan annually in the volume of 50-170 million cum in different years so as to meet the demand of decreasing water, which endangers the lake ecosystem.
7. Around 400,000 villagers in Ararat Valley face the fact of losing their opportunities to deal with agriculture, which will generate not only serious socio-economic problems but will also promote the increase in the new wave of emigration.
'..In the course of years, excessive water use permits have been issued, water intake in Ararat valley hasn't been controlled, which has caused the generation of this disastrous environmental situation in the given area. Applying to Public Environmental Court I hope you will carry out a thorough, objective and impartial examination and will take measures to hold the current and previous officials – offenders criminally liable and to recover both the environmental and economic damage caused to Armenia,' Levon Galstyan said.
The victims were represented by 'ALT' TV Company Director Khachik Danielyan, 'Association for Sustainable Human Development' NGO President Karine Danielyan, 'Center for Consumers' Counseling' NGO President Karen Chilingaryan, 'Union of Armenian Fish Farmers' NGO Armen Buniatyan, Ararat region resident Haykanush Hovhannisyan, ''Armash' Center for Rural Community Support and Development' NGO President Tigran Matevosyan, Energy Expert Eduard Arzumanyan, 'Union of Public Defenders' NGO CEO Aram Grigoryan and EcoLur's Expert Roza Julhakyan.
Listening to the parties, the court returned a verdict for the sake of the people of the Republic of Armenia:
To recognize the overexploitation of water resources in the artesian basin of Ararat Valley leading to an environmental disaster as an environmental crime. To recognize officials liable for this situation whose signatures have been put to issue water use permits causing violations in ecosystem balance and overexploitation of water resources, decrease in surface and groundwater amounts and deterioration of quality.
3. To apply to RA Prosecutor's Office
- requesting to initiate criminal cases over the officials having issued illegal permits for the use of artesian water basin in Ararat Valley and damages caused to the state and citizens because of their actions.
4. To apply to RA Prime Minister requesting to assign the following bodies:
a) RA Nature Protection Ministry
not to distribute water if it damages the national water reserve (Article 13(Part 2) of RA Law 'On Main Provisions of National Water Policy).
To review the amount of the water intake laid down in the water permit making them compliant with the statutory requirements for the factual fish amount.
To develop and introduce a system for using water discharged from fish farms for irrigation systems or water circulation systems.
b) To propose to RA National Safety Council,
To examine the impact of the decrease in the artesian water level of Ararat Valley on:
- desertification and underlying risks,
- Armenian Nuclear Power Plant safety risks
- Food safety risks.
19:55 February 05, 2019