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2007


News

24.05.07
ENVIRONMENTAL NGO CONCERNED WITH WOOD EXPORT
(PANORAMA.AM)

23.05.07
29 TIMES LESS GREEN ZONE PER PERSON IN YEREVAN THAN INTERNATIONAL NORM
(PANORAMA.AM)

25.04.07
SIX PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS WIN GRANTS FROM WORLD BANK
(PANORAMA.AM)

14.04.07
ARMENIANS & LEFT SYMPOSIUM TAKES ON PRESSING ISSUES IN ARMENIA & TURKEY
(THE ARMENIAN WEEKLY)

10.03.07
�FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS�
(THE ARMENIAN WEEKLY)

01.03.07
NGOS RAISE ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS
(PANORAMA.AM)

01.03.07
COALITION OF ARMENIAN ECOLOGICAL NGOs DEMAND LAWFUL DEVELOPMENT OF TEGHUT MINE
(ARMINFO)

23.02.07
ARMENIA: COPPER MINE SPARKS ENVIRONMENTAL OUTCRY
EURASIANET/ARMENIANOW.COM

08.01.07
THE FOREST IS RECEDING
(HETQ ONLINE)




24.05.07
ENVIRONMENTAL NGO CONCERNED WITH WOOD EXPORT
(PANORAMA.AM)


Illegal tree cutting have been down twice against the year 2003. Whereas in 2003 1 million cubic meter trees were cut, now this number is 500 thousand cubic meter. �This is a big figure, anyway,� Nazeli Vardanyan, chair of Armenian Forest NGO, said. She believes even sanitary cuttings must be banned today because no inventory reports have been made since 1991.

Vardanyan said her NGO has urged the ministry of nature protection to stop tree cutting for 5 years. She believes the Armenian wood processing and furniture production units use local wood from illegal tree cuttings. �It is awful that wood is exported when tree cutting is banned in Armenia. Armenia used to import wood during the Soviet era and now it exports wood without paying custom tax. Our NGO proposes to impose a custom duty not on wood import but export. This proposal was declined, too,� the NGO leader says.

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23.05.07
29 TIMES LESS GREEN ZONE PER PERSON IN YEREVAN THAN INTERNATIONAL NORM
(PANORAMA.AM)


To ensure normal living, an international accepted norm says there should be 2.9 ha green zone per one person. In Yerevan, it is 0.1 ha per one person, which is 29 times less, Nazeli Vardanyan, chairperson of Armenian Forest NGO, told Panorama.am.

In her words, the absorbents are very few in the Armenian capital whereas the dust and smoke is a lot causing respiratory illnesses, abortion and genetic modification. The NGO raised its voice when trees were cut at Terian street this winter. In reply, the municipality said they were �sick trees� and new trees will be planted. �Now there is construction under was in the area. No new trees are planted,� Vardanyan said.

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25.04.07
SIX PUBLIC ORGANIZATIONS WIN GRANTS FROM WORLD BANK
(PANORAMA.AM)


Today Yerevan Office of World Bank and Armenian Office of Foundation for Support to Open Society Institute announced results of competition for Small Grants 2007.

Six public organizations are declared winners, among them Yerevan Forests, Goris Press Club, Comprehensive Life, Social Dialogue Center, We Plus, and Planet of Childhood.
The winners were chosen among some 80 applications.

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14.04.07
ARMENIANS & LEFT SYMPOSIUM TAKES ON PRESSING ISSUES IN ARMENIA & TURKEY
(THE ARMENIAN WEEKLY)

By Andy Turpin

Armenian Weekly On-Line, Volume 73, Number 15, April 14, 2007
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (A.W.)�On March 31, less than a year after the hugely successful Armenians and the Left (AATL) conference in New York, scores of activists, students and intellectuals from across the Northeast converged at Harvard University for a one-day symposium organized by AATL. Co-sponsored by Harvard�s Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the symposium featured leading Armenian journalists and media critics, groundbreaking environmental activists working in Armenia today, and outspoken proponents of meaningful Armeno-Turkish dialogue.

The panelists criticized the ruling elites�oligarchs and plutocrats�in Armenia, whose complicity in perpetuating endemic corruption has created enormous inequality and has placed Armenia�s very sustainability at risk. They also took aim at the Turkish state which has created an environment of impunity for vigilantism, as was recently seen in the assassination of the Istanbul based Armenian journalist and human rights activist, Hrant Dink. Members of the audience engaged in active dialogue during lively and heated question and answer sessions, which were often as substantial as the presentations themselves.

Conceived by the ARF USA-Eastern Region, the series of public forums and conferences organized under Armenians and the Left strive to present Armenian issues in a global, progressive context. They are meant to appeal to all those�Armenian and non-Armenian�who have an activist mindset and an appreciation for what binds the various plight of dispossessed groups, and are alarmed at the menacing trends that are threatening the world and its people.

�Panel II
Environmental Politics and Energy Needs

A panel on the fragile state of Armenia�s environmental conditions and energy needs, titled �Environmental Politics in Armenia� and moderated by Jeff Masarjian, featured president of Armenian Forests NGO Jeffrey Tufenkian, nuclear power industry expert Robert Kalantari, and founding director of Armenian Environmental Network Ursula Kazarian.

Jeffrey Tufenkian, president of the Armenian Forests NGO, spoke about the environmental zero-hour that Armenia is in right now.

�It feels kind of like we have our finger in the dyke. There are huge problems coming from every corner of the environmental front in Armenia,� he said.

Describing the republic�s lack of facilities, he said, �Besides deforestation and desertification we have solid waste issues. There�s not one proper solid waste disposal facility in the whole country. Trash is being burned openly. Sewage waste, and to some degree toxic waste from industry, is going untreated into rivers and lakes. Again, there�s not one proper waste sewage treatment facility in the country.�

Tufenkian explained that these problems were no longer side effects of an energy crisis but the overt results of rampant corruption and slight of policy. �The current problem is based much more on a few wealthy oligarchs and other powerful people who are taking in trucks into the forest and taking out truckloads of trees. They�re hiring local people, but it�s a much more systematic illegal business operation.�

�That�s not to say they don�t have permits,� he continued. �They have permits for sanitary cutting, getting the dead trees out of the forest. But they�re taking that one permit for getting dead trees out of the forest and using it for these healthy valuable trees in multiple places.�

If you project at the current rates of destruction, in a few short years Armenia could be almost forestless, he said. �We see a lot of cutting and no new growth.�
Speaking about other qualities of life that were at stake in this tipping of the balance, he explained, �Deforestation is not just losing trees. This is home for precious biodiversity. Over half of the six thousand different plants and animals of the Caucasus region are in Armenia. �We lose the forest, we lose habitat.�

�We�re moving to Armenia becoming a desert. Over 80 percent of land surveyed is under desertification. Myself, I�ve seen scorpions and snakes in Yerevan. It�s literally a process you can see happening.�

Tufenkian praised the past victories of environmental NGOs but reasserted the need both for more environmental activism and stronger anti-corruption measures to combat a political leadership that has no accountability to the public and the ravages of those who seek to profit off the land.

He ended by saying of the upcoming May 12 elections, �One of the biggest reasons for someone to vote is so that somebody doesn�t steal their vote. There�s a huge problem with that kind of corruption.��


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10.03.07
�FOR CURRENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS�
(THE ARMENIAN WEEKLY)

An Interview with Jeffrey Tufenkian
By Khatchig Mouradian

Jeffrey Tufenkian is co-founder and president of Armenian Forests NGO
(www.ArmenianForests.am), which focuses on restoring and protecting Armenia's
forests for the current and future generations. According to the website,
"Armenian Forests NGO is the outgrowth of his concern and determination to
do what is needed to protect and restore Armenia's threatened forests while
helping to create jobs and build the economy."

Tufenkian is also co-founder of the Kanach Foundation, publisher of the book
Adventure Armenia: Hiking and Rock Climbing (www.kanach.org).

In this interview, conducted on March 7, Tufenkian talks about the
challenges facing the environment in Armenia today, be they deforestation,
illegal logging or the absence of sufficient support for environmental NGOs.

Armenian Weekly-How is the Armenian government dealing with the problem of
deforestation? Does it provide support to NGO's like Armenian Forests NGO?

Jeffrey Tufenkian-The government voices concern about the deforestation
problems and pledges to plant millions of trees and thousands of hectares of
forests, but very little actually happens. Unfortunately given the current
situation of powerful people involved in the cutting, there is not the
political will to really stop deforestation from the highest levels of
government. Having said that, we have decent relationships with the key
ministries and there has been some progress. In recent years, there has been
a small amount of money from the state budget put into reforestation and
some reduction of cutting, but much more needs to be done.

A.W.-Talk about the problem of illegal logging.

J.T.-Of much greater importance than reforestation-as critical and difficult
as that is-is stopping the mass deforestation. Armenia's forests are being
systematically destroyed; unless drastic improvements are made soon, Armenia's
forests won't have a future. And with the loss of the forests comes the
downfall of the fragile ecosystem of which it is the cornerstone-loss of
springs, streams and rivers, loss of habitat for endangered animals, loss of
biodiversity, increasingly severe weather, landslides, erosion and
desertification.
Once covering 35 percent of Armenia's current territory, forest coverage is
at a historical low, covering only 7-8 percent. It has already lost many
springs and even rivers due to deforestation, and according to the
government, over 80 percent of the land is under some level of
desertification.

Despite this bleak and worsening situation, oligarchs and other powerful
people in Armenia cut trees not only to sell in Yerevan and elsewhere as
fuel and other internal uses (construction, furniture, etc.), but actually
export wood to countries including Spain, Italy, Iran and even Turkey. This
is an outrage that should not be tolerated. In fact, there is still no
process for legal productive cutting of forest trees in Armenia. Trees being
cut now are done by permission as "sanitary" or other cutting aimed at
protecting the health of the forests. Under the guise of this, they are
taking many times more trees and healthy ones rather than getting the sick
trees out of the forests. Almost by definition, any valuable wood cut in
Armenia is illegal.

Export of wood from Armenia is something that would have been unthinkable in
Soviet times. In the last half of the Soviet period, there was mass
reforestation (up to 7,000 hectares per year) and proper care of the forests
as they imported wood for domestic use and would never have cut for export.
The limited forest territory Armenia had was recognized as critically
important and therefore given a "protected" status.

Although Armenia needs to import wood and does not have supplies internally
to justify export, there are both customs fees and taxes to import wood, but
to export it there are neither. Armenia should immediately stop exporting
wood and change the laws to provide incentives for import of wood such as at
least eliminating the fees and taxes charged to bring it in.

A.W.-How does Armenian Forests NGO coordinate with other environmental NGOs.
Is duplication a problem?

J.T.-I must say that one of our priority approaches-one we put a lot of time
and effort into-is cooperating with and forming coalitions with others
including local NGOs-and it has been paying off. When we arrived on the
scene in 2002, it was difficult to get more than two NGOs in a room at the
same time and have constructive results working together, but there has been
a real shift, and I think that the environmental sector is now a place where
such cooperation among NGOs is really working and bringing good results. It
is not surprising that in this individual-oriented society where everyone
has his own organization rather than join someone else's and there is fierce
competition for limited funding, NGOs would be suspicious and fearful about
cooperating. In this context, our first attempts at establishing a coalition
was nearly a complete failure. But we and others kept at it and things
really shifted in 2005 when the local WWF organization sounded the alarm
about Shikahogh. We jumped in with about 40 local organizations to help lead
a successful campaign to stop the government's decision to put a major
highway through the flagship nature reserve called Shikahogh-the last
unspoiled forest of Armenia. This was not only a great win for the
environment of Armenia, but an unprecedented win for civil society as these
groups really set aside their individual egos and cooperated in an excellent
way to bring this success.

We have been monitoring another situation and just this month publicly
launched a new campaign-with many of the same NGOs from Shikahogh-to attempt
to get a proposed mining operation at Teghut near Aleverdi in Lori Marz to
stop until it complies with national laws and international conventions, and
does not pose an undue danger to the environment and people. The current
exploration violates 11 national laws and 7 international conventions; if
approved, it would poison the water basin for this whole area, and destroy
over 1,200 hectares (2,964 acres) of forests and its natural ecosystem as
they would remove an entire small mountain and fill a valley with the unused
rock and soil. Increased pollution from the smelter would further impact the
already toxic zone of Aleverdi where birth defects and respiratory diseases
are rampant.

A.W.-The mining issue has attracted a lot of attention in the past year.
Mining also provides a lot of jobs. How are the environment NGOs planning to
deal with that? Are there models providing a better alternative?

J.T.-Yes, there's been lots of attention on mining in Armenia and lots of
mining activity recently. I personally am still in a learning curve to get a
grasp on the details of this industry and what alternatives are possible to
allow for this industry without poisoning the water, air and devastating the
natural environment for decades to come. Armenia is a small country with
limited, threatened natural resources. Any major mining operation can
potentially have a huge negative impact on current and future generations.

Armenia clearly needs more jobs and opportunities for income generation, and
of course, the mining interests like other industries are promising lots of
jobs. Unfortunately, as with much hype, the picture may not be as rosy as
they try to paint it. The high paying jobs will likely be filled by people
from Yerevan or from out of the country, the majority of the jobs will be
low-paid, and many of the local villagers will have to gamble by sacrificing
their land-which now provides consistent income and food-for a chance of a
low-paying job. Unfortunately, even if they get one, it may not make up for
the loss of productive fruit trees and land, and they'll have less money,
polluted water and a devastated environment, as well.

I personally am hoping that a couple of the more responsible international
mining outfits can be models of an environmentally and socially responsible
approach. Unfortunately, the current prevailing mode here is a "least common
denominator" approach of paying off officials, paying lip service to health
and environmental concerns, grabbing as much as possible and getting out,
leaving destruction and little if any remaining benefit for the country and
its people.

A.W.-What do you say to those in the Diaspora who ask: What can I do to
help?

J.T.-There are things Diasporans can do. I believe starting and investing in
businesses-especially those that pay off not only in profits and improved
social wellbeing through more jobs, but have a positive payoff for the
environment-could be the most important and helpful approach for Armenia
now. Armenians are smart and creative, and they can use their expertise and
financial investment to take advantage of business opportunities. It's also
great to donate to a good organization, and I realize easier for most than
starting or running a business in Armenia. To that end, I can say we are
happy to accept contributions. Armenian Forests NGO is doing outreach in the
U.S. this spring with the other Tufenkian Foundation branches to raise
support for some of our key projects aimed at protecting forests of the
homeland.

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01.03.07
NGOS RAISE ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS
(PANORAMA.AM)


Today 26 environmental NGOs announced about the formation of coalition �SOS-Teghut� which aims to bring the implementation of Teghut mines into the legal field. The NGOs told a press conference today that several international treaties are violated in case Teghut mines are processed.

The members of a coalition submitted an open letter to the president of the Republic today. Nazeli Vardanyan, head of Armenian Forests NGO, said they will wait for the president�s answer and after that they will apply to Constitutional Court and international institutions. NGOs say several ecological disasters are expected in case Teghut mines are processed.

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01.03.07
COALITION OF ARMENIAN ECOLOGICAL NGOs DEMAND LAWFUL DEVELOPMENT OF TEGHUT MINE
(ARMINFO)


The SOS-Teghut Coalition of Armenian ecological NGOs, which was formed in protest against open
exploitation of the Teghut copper-molybdenum deposit, applied to Armenian President Robert Kocharyan to consider all the legal aspects of developing the deposit with minimum environmental damage.

Public hearings on the Teghut issue were held today with participation of representatives of rural administrations of Teghut and Shnogh, Lori region. During the hearings, Lawyer Nazeli Vardanyan, the Director of the Armenian Forests NGO said that the letter addressed to the President dwells upon the violations of 7 International Conventions ratified by Armenia, as well as the violations of the Armenian legislation, particularly, the Constitution of Armenia. The SOS-Teghut coalition's representatives are looking forward to the President's answer and will take their further steps in compliance with the President's answer.

To remind, the ecological expert examination gave a positive conclusion for developing the Teghut copper-molybdenum deposit in the Lori region of Armenia. If the Armenian Copper Program, which has a license to exploit the mine for a period of 25 years, fails to implement the tasks set by the commission of experts, the license will be revoked. Armenian Minister of Nature Protection Vardan Ayvazyan supports the project on open development of the mine, stating that the close development is impossible. According to specialists, the development of the open-cut in this area resulted in destruction of 10 species of reptiles; 29 species of squamates, 11 of which are listed in the International Red Book; 191 species of plants, 9 of which are listed in the Red Book and 2 can be found only on the territory of the Teghut virgin forest. The industrial development of the mine will lead to migration of 59 species of birds, 55 species of mammals, 21 of which are listed in the Red Book. Archaeological monuments dating back to the Antique period and the Bronze and Middle Ages will also be destroyed irreparably.

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23.02.07
ARMENIA: COPPER MINE SPARKS ENVIRONMENTAL OUTCRY
EURASIANET/ARMENIANOW.COM

By Marianna Grigoryan
The Armenian Ministry of Environmental Protection�s recent decision to give the go-ahead to the development of a copper-molybdenum mine in northern Armenia has sparked considerable concern among environmentalists and related non-governmental organizations.
�We consider the program of operation for the Teghut copper-molybdenum mine to be illegal,� commented Hakob Sanasaryan, president of the Union of the Greens of Armenia, an activist group. �It is being implemented with gross violations of the law and without any environmental impact studies.�
The Teghut copper-molybdenum mine, located in the mountainous northern region of Lori, more than 200 kilometers north of Yerevan, was well known in Soviet times. At that time, its copper reserves were estimated at 450-500 million tons. In the 1970s, a ban was placed on development of the mine to preserve the surrounding virgin forests and the fauna they contained.
However, in the push to adapt to economic changes, that ban has now been lifted.
�We were asked �Is it worth or not?� We said, �Yes, it is,�� Minister of Environmental Protection Vardan Ayvazian told a June 2006 press conference in response to a question about the development of the Teghut mine. Final government approval for exploitation of the territory came in November 2006. �Wealth is contained here, and the environmental damage must be compensated.�
No one doubts the mine�s earning potential. Currently, the established reserves in Teghut make 1.6 million tonnes of copper and 99,000 tonnes of molybdenum, a metal primarily incorporated into alloys to strengthen steel for pipelines and planes, among other uses. Teghut�s reserves rank it as Armenia�s second largest copper-molybdenum mine after the Zangezur mine in the town of Kajaran, according to Gagik Arzumanyan, director of Armenian Copper Program (ACP), the Armenian company awarded the tender to develop the mine in 2001.
With copper prices running at record highs in recent years, tens of millions are expected in estimated profits, with a sizeable hunk of that amount going to the state in taxes. On February 22, copper was selling for $5.61 per metric tonne on the London Metal Exchange.
ACP, part of a larger group of companies with operations in Armenia, Russia and Liechtenstein, plans to run the mine for 25-30 years as an open-pit mine, a far less expensive operating method, but one which removes the upper layer of earth, uprooting hectares of lime, beech, maple and nut trees.
Environmentalists claim that 510 hectares of humus-rich, forest-covered land out of a local total of 670 hectares are expected to be lost; an estimated 127,700 trees will be logged.
�A whole eco-system will vanish as a result, the [territory�s ecological] balance will unequivocally be disturbed,� commented environmental lawyer Nazeli Vardanian, director of the non-governmental organization Forests of Armenia. Expert assessments completed for the environment ministry give no estimates of the number of species of flora and fauna likely to be destroyed by the mining, or the effect on local humans, he charged.
Experts from the state-run commission in Yerevan that approved the assessment for the ministry declined to speak with EurasiaNet.
By contrast, a months-long independent investigation conducted by Vardanian, Union of the Greens of Armenia President Sanasarian and Social-Ecological Association President Srbuhi Harutyunian found that the mining will cause tremendous damage to the surrounding environment.
According to these findings, if the mine is developed, 59 bird species, 55 mammal species, 10 reptile species, 29 species of fish and 191 plant species will be destroyed. Twenty-one of the mammals, 11 of the fish species and nine of the plant species are registered in the International Red Book of Endangered Species published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Two of the plant species can only be found within the Teghut forests.
Architectural monuments dating from the Bronze Age to the 12th century -- and ranging from tombs and churches to traditional Armenian khachkars, or stone crosses -- will also be destroyed, specialists fear.
�The development of the Teghut mine will lay the grounds for an unprecedented process,� said Union of the Greens President Sanasaryan. While mining has destroyed before parts of forests, he said, �there hasn�t been a case until today that the whole territory allotted for mining is a natural forest.�
In response, Vardanian and his group say that there are �good� grounds for petitioning the prosecutor�s office to have the ministry�s allegedly incomplete environmental assessment thrown out.
Optimism, however, does not run high that the group will succeed. Lawyer Vardanian claimed that Environmental Protection Minister Ayvazian has called the decision to restart the copper mine �a political decision, and no matter what you do, it will still be realized.� The ministry failed to object to the 2001 tender for development of the mine, Vardanian and his associates claim.
At a February 16 press conference, Minister Ayvazian characterized the government�s position on the issue as �very tough.�
�As many as 100,000 cubic meters of wood are logged in Armenia a year legally, and 600-700,000 illegally, and I see no problem and difficulty in connection with the tree cutting in Teghut,� Ayvazyan said. Logging will occur sector by sector, he added, and ACP will �carry out forest rehabilitation works in other areas.� The Lori region in which the mine is situated is already considered by healthcare and environmental specialists to be an environmental disaster zone. According to Ministry of Health statistics, the rate of allergies and asthmatic diseases in the region is ten times higher than the national average. The rate of abnormal births in Lori is also one of the highest in Armenia. Environmentalists point at ongoing extractative activities in the region as the cause. Aside from Teghut, Lori contains an ore mine at Akhtala, a chemical plant at Vanadzor, a plant at Tumanyan that produces fire-resistant materials and a metallurgical plant at Alaverdi, also run by the Armenian Copper Program. Since 1996, the Alaverdi plant has been operated without filters, leading to regular releases of sulfur dioxide and other harmful materials into the air.
�The Lori region has lost the state of eco-balance, and the development of the Teghut mine will tremendously aggravate that situation,� commented Srbuhi Harutyunyan.
In response, ACP has pointed to the 1,400 jobs the reopened copper mine will bring to local residents. Poverty in the region runs rampant.
According to the environmentalists, though, not all villagers are excited about the possibility of employment. More than half in the neighboring villages of Teghut and Shnokh have refused to sell their lands to the mine for exploitation, Vardanian said.
�Elderly people cannot imagine how they can leave the place where they were born and live,� he commented.

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08.01.07
THE FOREST IS RECEDING
(HETQ ONLINE)


Precious plants are nearing extinction in the forest area surrounding Vanadzor. Agricultural scientist Lilia Bayramyan has identified such medicinal herbs and wild plants as nettle, thyme, mint, cat thyme, motherwort, Solomon's s eal, St. John's wort, etc. Her observation in and around Vanadzor's central bazaar last spring reveal that about four metric tons of herbs and wild plants were collected and sold each day during that period.
�If this trend continues the reserves of precious plants will be exhausted in two years,� Lilia Bayramyan concludes. Biologist Karen Afrikyan in his turn notes that in the near future one sort of both thyme and St John's wort will end up in the Red Book.
Bayramyan explains that the ruthless collection of herbs is not the only human activity that threatens these precious plants. Her studies also suggest that the plants are endangered above all by logging in the area. �Since logging began, the temperature has risen. The precious plants began withering in the sunlight. Now they can only grow in the upper or trans-alpine layer of the forest. And people, in their turn, keep picking them.�
The result of all this is that in the formerly forested areas of Vanadzor, precious plants are being replaced by herbaceous plants. Lilia Bayramyan has also discovered that as a consequence of the destruction of forest areas, fewer minerals are enriching the soil and nourishing the precious plants. �The quantity of phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium has decreased as a result of soil drenching,� she said. In return, favorable conditions for grass have been created. Wild horse-radish, trefoil, and coltsfoot have overtaken the former forests and, growing rapidly, prevent any other tree or plant seeds that end up here from taking root.
�The fact is the forest is slowly receding,� Karen Afrikyan said. This means that a tree seed that falls on the soil will encounter the so-called dead layer composed of weeds and forest remains. This layer, as the phytosociologist explains, prevents the plant from reaching the main organic layer and, therefore, from finding nourishment.
�In many places where the dead layer is thin the seeds will bloom but the shadow of the weeds will deprive the sapling of sunlight and it will wither,� Afrikyan said.
The rapid propagation of herbaceous plants turns formerly forested areas into a zone of desert growth. Lilia Bayramyan maintains that a zonal alteration is now taking place, which entails climate change. In other words, the herbaceous plants are gradually turning the forest areas into a trans-alpine zone in which the temperature is continuously rising.
�In this case the trans-alpine vegetation that thrives in lower temperatures will suffer. The soil will be warm, as will the air, and the seeds will not grow. Grass will fill the area and the plain grasses will turn into desert vegetation. Insects will come in from hotter places. The harmful bloody nosed beetles will harm not only what forests still exist but the grass as well,� Bayramyan warned.
�There will be desert vegetation; absinthium, camel's-thorn and other arid plants will grow and it will become impossible to restore the forest and the area will turn into a bald, dead zone. Not only the flora but the fauna will change� Karen Afrikyan predicted.
As a result of the steady rise in temperature the forest will disappear. And in the Lori Marz, according to Karen Afrikyan, all the prerequisites now exist.
Experts add to these factors the drying-out of 500 springs in Lori and the decrease in black earth zones and point to desertification phenomena.
According to geologist Artak Demirchyan from the Lori Marz administration, 20% of the springs that have dried up over the last six years are in Vanadzor. If there is no forest, there is no humidity, no black earth. Landslides that result from logging are contributing to soil erosion.
Ashot Vardevanyan from the department of bio-resources management of the Ministry of Nature Protection believes the Lori Marz is in better shape from the point of view of desertification than the southern and central regions of Armenia. At the same time he pointed out that this evaluation is approximate. �We have a problem with monitoring,� � he said, saying that it is necessary to study the concentration of humus and heavy metals in the soil in the Lori Marz as well as the species composition of forests.
Following his own study of climate change and desertification in Armenia, geographer Ashot Khoyetsyan points to logging and other factors in desertification.
The National Action Plan to Combat Desertification in Armenia developed under the guidance of Ashot Vardevanyan envisages only one action to combat desertification in Lori� the neutralization of the harmful impact of the Shamlor reservoir.
Four years have passed since the action plan was adopted but nothing has been done because of the lack of funds. Instead various projects aimed at forest restoration have been implemented without any expert supervision.
According Volodya Buniatyan, who heads the Lori Marz Department of Ecology and Agriculture, saplings have taken root on only 300 of the 1,500 hectares of land on which they were planted. Buniatyan favorably assesses the planting carried out over the last three years, though he says that only 40 % of the trees planted in Stepanavan, Lalvar, and Dilijan between 2003 and 2005 have taken root.
Karen Afrikyan points to areas in Lori that have been irrevocably lost and will not even be restored as forest zones in centuries. Among them he singles out the forests of Gugark and Vanadzor. At the same time, there has been a fundamental change in the composition of the Vanadzor forests, which prior to logging were 90% oaks and beeches.
�The natural forest has transformed into a secondary forest,� agreed Lilia Bayramyan. She believes it may take up to a thousand years to restore the natural forest, that is, if the area does not completely succumb to desertification, as it threatens to today.
Naira Bulghadaryan

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2007
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