International tools to counteract polluters in Armenia

28.8.2018 - YEREVAN

In the presence of the Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Yerevan Petr Mikyska, Arnika together with local NGOs discussed the international tools to administer justice towards polluters, continuing their mission for chemical safety in Armenia after sampling the mining areas of Alaverdi, Shnogh and Akhtala in cooperation with the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague in order to detect the impact of industry on human health. "Our task is to find mechanisms for an effective dialogue with the government so as to find solutions to the problems we have risen," President of Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment, Yelena Manvelyan said in her welcoming speech.

The international cooperation is a result of the Transition Promotion Program of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Czech Republic in Yerevan Petr Mikyska stated that "this year, Armenia has become one of the programme priority countries. During the project development, Armenia was included among the project priority countries for the following reason: the government must keep the promises given at the beginning of the project so as to work for the objectives and tasks together with the civil society. The project relates to the issues, which are currently available in the communities located near mines and promotes the development of the civil society, provides numerous opportunities and knowledge in terms of working with the government in different working stages."

President of EcoLur Informational NGO, Inga Zarafyan noted that according to the investigation, the mining-driven problems in the communities, besides being an environmental disaster, also have socio-economic nature, particularly when speaking about Alaverdi industrial town, where there is an increasing tendency of migration.

Karine Danielyan from Association for Sustainable Human Development NGO, said: "It has been found out that the cancer morbidity rate in Armenia has increased three-fold over the independence years and the number of children born with inherent defects has also increased three-fold. Mining areas also have pollution indicators, where Lori Region is the leader followed by Syunik Region and Yerevan City."

"The amount of emissions in Alaverdi over one year makes up 30,000 tons," noted the Consultant of 'Khazer' Environmental and Cultural NGO, Aram Gabrielyan "for example, during one day 8 carriages of sulfuric acid residues on the impacted communities, which are 10 in this regard. Such amounts of emissions don't exist in the Eurasian region. There is huge incompliance of Alaverdi copper smelting combine chimney construction with the environmental standards. For the emissions of statutory-allowed 30,000 tons, the enterprise pays 150 million AMD instead of 2.5 billion AMD. The aggregate effect exceeds the average of the emissions over the whole area of Armenia 7 times, which are the official data of Health Ministry," Gabrielyan said.

Independent expert Roza Julhakyan proposed to collect all the problems detected by our colleagues, to submit them to the government and propose them to amend the relevant law or rule.

Arnika's Chairman, Martin Skalsky remarked that "when the results of our examination are available, we will compare them with the Armenian, Russian and European standards and rules. And surely we will present the cause-and-effect connection of the results with the operation of the enterprise, which may serve as a ground to amend the law," expert on public participation said.

'We could eyewitness how the plants get damaged as a result of acid rains. We also spoke to the locals and learned that they have respiratory problems, headaches, digestion problems (nausea) and the concerning fact was that the smoke in Alaverdi was emitted 24/7. We took samples from the soil area in children's playgrounds and kindergartens, the hair of the locals and the eggs laid by the local hens in the area. We also sampled from the residue on the riverbed. We've also examined Akhtala tailing dump, which, by the way, didn't have any fence and both the animals grazing nearby and the children playing nearby could easily approach it. It is located at a distance of around 100 meters from the residential area, as a result of which, people are unavoidably impacted adversely by the tailing dump," Arnika's expert Nikol Krejčová said.

"We can already apply to RA Nature Protection Minister to establish a register of emissions and pollution, as it is rather difficult to obtain information on pollution in Armenia," Martin Skalsky proposed, "An EU representative can be invited to our meeting in October where the problems detected by us will be discovered to ask for support."


The original article was published by EcoLur and used by Arnika with the authorization.

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