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“Natural resources need to be used reasonably” - PM familiarized with Ministry of Environment programs


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Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan today visited the Ministry of Environment to discuss the Ministry’s ongoing and upcoming programs. The meeting was attended by Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister Arsen Torosyan, Minister of Environment Romanos Petrosyan, Deputy Ministers, heads of Ministry-affiliated government agencies, other dignitaries.

Before discussing the activities of the Ministry of Environment, Prime Minister Pashinyan highlighted the importance of the sphere. “Environmental challenges came to the forefront in the 21st century. It should be directly stated that any activity of a person or a civilization is at odds with the environment. Modern civilization should make a prudent use of natural resources. Natural resources need to be used reasonably if we are to ensure that the environmental impact is manageable. To put it straightforwardly, this is a bitter record of course, but it has no alternative. Therefore, the primary mission of the Ministry of Environment is to strike the right balance.

We must regretfully admit that our country’s adherence to the aforementioned standards is far from being satisfactory, and we are actually facing serious challenges in this field. But, on the other hand, we cannot halt the so-called economic and civilization-related activities in the territory of the Republic of Armenia. I understand that the examples I just cited above may seem too sharp, even too grotesque, but the building where we are sitting now has inflicted specific damage on the environment from the start of construction to the planning stage.

After all, let us not forget that there was once a virgin wildlife here; let us not forget that the stone that was taken out of a mine was extorted from nature, the building materials, everything used - pipes, wood - everything was extorted from nature. But these primitive records are very important as we must position ourselves correctly with regard to nature, realizing that we can do irreparable damage through reckless action. In the meantime, incomes and profits from the use of natural resources can be invested in wildlife conservation and environmental protection efforts. Dear colleagues, you are dealing with such complex tasks on a daily basis, and today we will be happy to hear about your plans, ongoing activities, achievements, challenges and failures.”

The Minister of Environment presented the ongoing reforms, including first of all the complex programs aimed at restoring Lake Sevan’s ecosystem, which provide for dismantling buildings, removing garbage and waste matter, and developing fish stocks. The Minister noted that in this regard:

• It has been two weeks now since we launched the process of dismantling about 1600 facilities and illegal semi-finished buildings located in the area below the mark of 1903.5 m and evacuating construction waste. Some 3 dozen facilities subject to dismantling were removed from the area. Those activities are to be continued.

• The first stage of the Lake Sevan industrial fish breeding project has been completed. Drastic measures were taken to prevent illegal fishing, resulting in about 75-80% reduction in fish theft.

265 eligible beneficiaries caught some 205 tons of whitefish in the period from September through December 1, 2020, when the fishing ban will come into force. In this way, businesses are allowed to engage in legitimate fish exports. The program’s second stage envisages further curbing of illegal fishing, with almost the same number of quotas offered to fishermen. A draft government decision on the launch of the second stage will be presented soon.

It was reported that the highest 5-year indicator of water level in Lake Sevan was recorded in 2021 following a positive improvement as compared to last year. Prioritizing the package of comprehensive efforts aimed at restoring Lake Sevan’s ecosystem and raising the water level, Nikol Pashinyan stressed the importance of digitization programs based on actual and forecast data. “The availability of a digital model will help us increase the efficiency of activities,” the Premier said, urging those responsible to work in this direction.

The Premier was next informed about the programs implemented in the field of forest protection and reforestation. The activities carried out by Hayantar SNCO were presented in this context. At this point of time a self-sufficient model of pilot management is being introduced in 2 forestries, which implies that Hayantar shall be the authorized entity responsible for the industrial-economic component of all procurements of timber and construction materials, i.e. the SNCO will have to hire extra labor at its own expense to ensure the whole process of timber procurement.

The Minister reported that a large amount of “black” turnover had been revealed in this sphere; criminal proceedings had been launched. By reducing the scope of inflated payrolls in the sector and introducing a new model of savings and efficient management, the Ministry will be able to raise salaries of about 970 Hayantar staff from March 1, 2021. The amount of savings jave amounted to 271 million drams.

The Prime Minister was briefed on the rates of illegal deforestation, which, according to the officials, is still significant. A possibility for reforming the forest management model is being examined by introducing a 24-hour security service with economic components. In this context, issues related to interaction between different state agencies vested with supervisory functions were discussed during the meeting.

Coming to reforestation, the speakers noted that 123 hectares were restored in 2020. The coverage of tree nurseries is going to be increased 3-fold in 2021. Reference was made to the program of planting 10 million trees in Armenia, which was postponed due to the global pandemic and the war. Details of resuming the program this year were discussed during the meeting.

The Prime Minister was introduced to the ongoing wildlife protection and anti-poaching campaign. Is planned to take stock of wild animals and build up a cadastre system. Significant changes will be made in the field of hunting with the prospect of developing hunting farms. Work is underway to revoke the previously licensed wildlife management permits. 16,000 hectares of protected zones will be recovered by virtue of a government decision, and the process will be continued.

The issue of effective management of water resources, inclusive of the underground basin and deep wells in the Ararat Valley was raised during the consultation. Prime Minister Pashinyan instructed to discuss the problems with the interdepartmental working group and come up with relevant solutions.

The meeting next reviewed the activities and programs implemented by Ministry of Environment-affiliated agencies, such as the Forest Committee, the Hydro-Aeronautical Monitoring Center SNCO, the Reserve Complex SNCO, and the Zvartnots Aeronautical Center CJSC. Progress in the ongoing reforms, forthcoming actions, management efficiency and the steps to improve the quality of services were discussed during the consultation. A system of online coupons will be introduced in the Khosrov Forest State Reserve in the near future which, if successful, will be introduced in other structures of the ministry as well. The program will kick off in mid-March.

Reference was next made to the functions carried out by the staff of the Ministry, the payroll, the ongoing organizational reform, and the staffing process. Work has been done to improve Lake Sevan’s public beaches. 15% of corporate revenue received by public beach operators will be used to implement complex programs in Sevan National Park, which is an unprecedented move.

Nikol Pashinyan said it is necessary to introduce standards for the provision of services and organize work on that principle. The Premier stressed the need for consistent, proactive work in the field of environmental protection, proper implementation of control functions and introduction of state-of-the-art electronic systems.

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