Green Trends: Environmental movement rising in Armenia after a few successful campaigns

Green Trends: Environmental movement rising in Armenia after a few successful campaigns

Photo: www.ecolur.org

It seems that the establishment of the Green Party is in the offing in Armenia. Environmental movements are growing stronger, amidst growing awareness that mining is causing considerable damage to nature. Yet, ecologists so far have used only civilian instruments, not trying to get a political foothold.

The latest example of such civil struggle was the large action on January 15 by environmentalists from the Teghut Protection Group fighting for the conservation of a large forest in the northeastern Lori province of Armenia that is set to be mined for copper and molybdenum. The activists visited the site, recording the logging of hectares of forest. The action aroused a great public response, but has had no political consequences yet. Moreover, it was announced that the company developing the deposits, Vallex, intends to sue environmentalists for “obstruction to normal operation.”

Earlier, the Group accused the government of Armenia of failing to live up to its commitments under the Aarhus Convention and filed a corresponding action with the compliance committee. But administrative courts have repeatedly refused to accept such claims. Now environmentalists are preparing another lawsuit in this regard.

Perennial environmental activist Mariam Sukhudyan, who, for many, has become the campaign’s abrasive embodiment, says that environmental movement has become stronger in Armenia in recent years. “The victory in Trchkan inspired us,” says Sukhudyan, referring to the successful campaign for conserving a waterfall last fall. “For example, Hrazdan or Jermuk also began to fight, and they say they are inspired by that victory in Trchkan. In the end, everyone understands that this is not only the movement of the green, but is a matter of national security. To the people who ask whether our movement will become political I’ll say that in one way or another we influence the system with our struggle. Our driving force is not the pursuit of power, but I know that without having any affiliation with a political party, fighting for Teghut, Trchkan, for Armenia, we are forming a new system,” says Sukhudyan.

However, it is obvious that the availability of policymaking tools, representation in parliament, would enhance the positions of the Green Movement. Now environmentalists have been joined by the parliamentary opposition Heritage party, which tries to raise certain questions in the legislative body. However, it doesn’t seem to be enough.

Environmentalists have actually already celebrated several victories and perhaps the biggest of them was preventing the construction of a mini hydropower plant on the Trchkan waterfall situated on the administrative border of Armenia’s northern Shirak and Lori provinces. Now there is some information that Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan was outraged to learn from the press that the development of the Kajaran copper deposit would require the eviction of residents from the borderline village of Kajaran – something that was resisted by the local residents and became a matter of concern for environmental groups late last year. According to the press, Sargsyan said that he had been previously misinformed. And if environmentalists actually blocked this project, it would become a huge victory for the greens.

“On the one hand the mining predator is stifling [the country], on the other hand the pseudo-economic and pseudo-regional effects of the development are evident: residents in the villages of Syunik, from where so much gold is taken out, live in appalling conditions. Our country is moving towards environmental colonization,” says Sukhudyan.