Armenian environmentalists launch ‘SOS Sevan’ campaign
The Armenian government proposes to increase the volume of water intake this year from Sevan Lake up to 270 million m3, while the maximum permissible norm is 170 million m3.
The aforesaid initiative has stirred up experts’ outrage. The environmentalists have announced the launch of an ‘SOS Sevan’ campaign.
Experts believe that the proposed additional intake of 100 million m3 of water from Sevan Lake is related to certain risks.
Bardukh Gabrielyan, The Director of the Scientific Center for Zoology and Hydroecology at the Armenian Academy of Sciences, says that the increase in the lake’s water level prevents it from swamping: “If the water level in Sevan Lake drops, we will accelerate the swamp formation process, and our long-time efforts [to raise the water level in the lake] will be in vain. In addition, it will affect the water quality, making the fish breeding process even more complicated. The water level in Sevan Lake should be raised by at least a few centimeters.”
The environmentalists also note that this issue was not subjected to public debates and the community has not expressed its opinion. According to Lianna Asoyan, the Chairperson of the Blejan NGO of Gegharkunik marz, even the residents of the villages located in the vicinity of the lake are unaware of the aforesaid proposal: “They sit in the government and make decisions without due account for the problems of those who reside in the lakeside areas. Sevan has just recovered and the bogged water has cleared as a result of an increase in the water level.”
Meanwhile, authorities claim that the additional water intake is not going to affect Sevan Lake. Arsen Harutyunyan, the Chair of the State Committee on Water Resources, stated that the lake eco-system wouldn’t be affected, as the water level has risen by just 16cm over the period of a year.
The government justified its decision by saying that the additional water intake would allow economizing on electrical power costs, amounting up to AMD 1.2 billion [USD 2.5 million].
However, environmentalists have certain counter-arguments in this regard.
Inga Zarafyan, the Head of the EcoLur information NGO, says that under the water legislation, water used for energy purposes has the lowest priority of all: “First drinking water should be provided, then irrigation water… and only afterwards can water be used for energy purposes. However, there is no mention of the impact the additional water intake will have on the first two requirements – whether it is going to affect the drinking or irrigation water reserves or not. As for the consequences, there isn’t a single word about it.”