Nikol Pashinyan: “Armenia’s irrigation system needs drastic improvements”
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A Cabinet meeting was held today, chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
The draft law on amending the RA Law on Approval of Annual and Complex Programs of Recovery, Conservation, Reproduction and Usage of Lake Sevan Ecosystem was discussed.
“Perhaps, this is one of the most delicate issues on our agenda. The government has held several discussions on the situation in the irrigation system over the past one and a half months. We had a problem and a political stance to do everything to ensure that there was no need for additional water intake from Lake Sevan and the issues were solved without such a decision.
There was a lot of heated debate and, as a result, it became clear to us. there is some real risk that we can create rather a complicated situation leading to a deadlock in agriculture, on the other hand, a double deadlock for the government, in one case for agriculture, and in the other case, in the context of political, civic belief that Lake Sevan cannot be treated as a water container, and unfortunately, our irrigation system’s activities are giving rise to numerous issues, and we should definitely find the right answers to those issues.
Armenia’s irrigation system needs drastic improvements, including organizational ones, to understand the reality, as the media outlets are pointing to the existence of a “water mafia” in the Republic of Armenia, and if so, it should be defeated as soon as possible,” Nikol Pashinyan said.
The adoption of the bill is conditioned by the need to partially mitigate the water deficit of the irrigation water supply deficit under the control of irrigation systems fed from the Sevan-Hrazdan drainage system. Accordingly, it is envisaged to change the law for irrigation purposes from the lake by 2018. 170 million cubic meters of discharge, making it up to 210 million cubic meters.
Referring to the issue discussed, the Prime Minister said: “From the very outset, as early as in June we set the task to do everything possible so that there was no need for additional water intake from Sevan. First, I was told that there was no need to take water from Sevan, but later on it was reported that the need might arise to implement water intake from the lake, and so several times on and again. In fact, numerous discussions have been held at the government, involving representatives from all concerned government agencies.
During the last discussion, we had such a situation when the participants were divided into two parts. some claimed that it would be possible to satisfy the needs of irrigation, without the intake of water from Lake Sevan, the other part claimed that it was impossible to do, and if we go that way, we will face a disaster, because it will be understood that the villagers' gardens, information, unprecedented high yields, will face a direct catastrophe.
Finally, we came to the following approach: firstly, in order to stabilize the situation we will make a decision to that effect, but on the other hand, we will set up a task force which will look into the situation in all detail in case the law has been passed, and will try to address the problems in a way to rule out the intake of extra 40 million cubic meters, if possible. But in any case, should it turn out that the crop might be lost or damaged, we will take water from the lake.”
The government next decided to suggest the NA Speaker convene an extraordinary National Assembly session on August 28, 11:00 local time, to discuss the draft law On Amending the Law of the Republic of Armenia “On Approval of Annual and Complex Programs for Restoration, Preservation, Reproduction and Usage of Lake Sevan Ecosystem.”
The Cabinet endorsed the government’s legislative initiative to draft a law On Amendments to the Water Code of the Republic of Armenia.” The bill will promote the protection and balance of Armenia’s water system. The bill specifically recommended that Article 30.1 of the RA Water Code be supplemented by a new section, which stipulates the zones prohibited for the construction and operation of SHPPs and, based on environmental specifications, the grounds for rejecting applications for water use permits granted to small hydroelectric power plants. Touching upon the decision, Nikol Pashinyan noted that these discussions and approaches cannot be interpreted as steps against economic activity.
“We need to tackle this issue most seriously: Armenia’s strategic resource is at stake here. Law enforcement authorities will have to deal with this issue, if necessary. This process should not be construed as redistribution of property. We need to ensure smooth operations of small hydropower plants, develop a roadmap for overcoming the disastrous environmental situation in order to have a clear action plan on how to solve problems. At a recent consultation, I voiced concern about the water use anomalies on the part of small HPPs. Here, we need not resort to threats; instead, we should foster a culture for people to realize that resources should be treated with utmost care. The State guarantees the continuity of each legitimate economic activity. This is a crucial point and is part of the government’s priorities, as we prioritize the successful implementation of the Eco Armenia concept,” the Premier emphasized.
The Government approved a list of measures to ensure the implementation of the mining industry development concept. A mining industry development strategy is to be drafted, for which it is necessary to carry out some diagnostic surveys. The planned activities will be implemented with grants available from the World Bank and donor organizations.
Nikol Pashinyan noted that the mining industry is currently the main locomotive of our country’s economic growth, and the government has repeatedly stated that this model of economic growth cannot be considered as acceptable.
“One of the most important issues for our government is to change the model of economic growth not only because the matter affects the sale of subsoil, but also because the growth is not inclusive. In other words, the citizens of Armenia do not feel the impact of such economic growth. On the other hand, we must take every measure to establish greater control over the mining sector, to make the mining industry more efficient and responsible, and establish rules for the processing of mineral resources so that the public at large could really feel that the national wealth is used so that both the State and society are taking the benefits they are supposed to,” the Prime Minister said.
In conclusion, Nikol Pashinyan congratulated those present on the day of the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Armenia. “Dear colleagues, dear compatriots, this is the day of Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Armenia. On August 23, 1990, the Supreme Council of Armenia adopted the Declaration of Independence, which later became the basis for Armenia’s independence and sovereign statehood. I congratulate all of us, the Armenian people on this historic event, and I am convinced that all those dreams we had at the time of Independence Declaration and are still cherishing today can come true. There is no doubt that the Republic of Armenia will be powerful, free and happy.”