Former officials in Armenia detained for felling trees
Foto: Gor Ayzak Hovhannisyan
As part of a fight to preserve Armenia’s forests, a criminal case has been opened against former employees of the State Inspectorate of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and representatives of institutions and departments which accepted bribes and did not introduce measures to prevent illegal logging, in addition to deliberately falsifying data to misrepresent the level of damage done to green zones.
Most of the illegal felling which took place this year occured in the Lori region. According to the regional Prosecutor-General Arsen Martirosyan, 86 cases were registered of which 69 criminal cases were initiated. The amount of damage has been assessed at approximately 45 million drams or USD 95 000.
“For every case of illegal logging, the subject of the investigation should be the lawfulness of the actions of those responsible, the behavior of foresters, caretakers, engineers, deputy directors and directors, as well as the relevant employees of the state inspectorate for environmental inspection whose actions will reveal violations,” Arsen Martirosyan stated.
Environmentalists positively assess the fight against law-breakers, but believe that these measures are not enough to counter illegal felling.
In a conversation with JAMnews, ecologist Apres Zograbyan said that these detentions are necessary in order to prevent further illegal logging, but that these are just ‘cosmetic’ measures as those who are really responsible for the situation have still not been punished.
“Forests had been cut down for many years. Over the course of one day it’s impossible to convince people to stop doing this when this is how they feed their families. The main person responsible who should be held accountable is the president of the country, but he will not arrest himself,” says Apres Zograbyan.
The ecologist also said that trees are felled to both heat homes and to sell the wood which is also used as a raw material.
“This is a large business in which village residents have almost no role. Now and then a villager may cut down some trees in order to get some wood for heating, but the business is in the hands of local and other authorities. This is a profitable business because wood is expensive.”
The Minister of Environmental Protection Artsvik Minasyan stated that those that encourage and support illegal tree felling should be held accountable and be punished irrespective of their responsibilities and position in society.
“Nobody is preventing people from heating their homes, but receiving income from an illegal source and to try to normalize this is unallowable. Such discoveries will continue to be made. People must understand that natural resources are in the public domain. If somebody says that you can destroy a forest and cut it down, then we have to resist this and say: no, the forests belong to everybody,” said the minister.