Activists call on authorities to halt ecological destruction
August 6, 2004

Stop for Green: Activists call on authorities to halt ecological destruction
in Yerevan

By Marianna Grigoryan
ArmeniaNow reporter
A group of environmental activists is taking steps to alert the highest
authorities in Armenia to what they see as a serious and dangerous hazard
concerning “green areas” in Yerevan.
The group has prepared a letter to the Government of Armenia in which it
brings to attention the destruction of several major Yerevan parks that have
been denuded to make space for new cafes.

Trees have become props for the cafe life.
The letter calls upon the Government of Armenia and the Municipality of
Yerevan to stop all “legal” and “illegal” construction in the areas of the
Tsitsernakaberd (Genocide Monument), Circular Park, Hrazdan Canyon, Freedom
Square and some central streets in the capital.
In 1998, there were 197 cafes in the center of Yerevan, serving a population
of about 75,000. As of 2002 the number had increased to 415 and has risen
even higher in the past two years. (ArmeniaNow asks city officials for the
latest number and was told a written request must be submitted.)
Ecologists argue that the constrction of cafes robs the city of its
aesthetic value and leaves citizens with no place for solitude.
The activists are demanding that officials (many of the cafes are owned by
various ministers and government authorities) who are responsible for the
destruction of green areas be held to account. And they say they are ready
to bring a lawsuit against the President of Armenia, the Prime Minister,
present and former mayors, city architects and others, if appropriate action
is not taken.
But even the activists aren’t optimistic about Yerevan’s future ecological
“It is a hopeless situation,” says Armen Dovlatyan, president of Armenian
Ecological Benevolent Union. “If the destruction of green zones will
continue, soon Yerevan will become a desert zone” .
According to Dovlatyan, beginning from the 1990s Yerevan lost more than
1,500 hectares from 2,000 hectares of its green zone.
“Everybody tries to blame war and energyc problems in 1990-1995, when people
in order do get warmth in winter cut trees,” he says. “But according to our
investigations, the cut area was only 430 hectares in 1990-1995, and between
1995-2003, 1,000 hectares of green zone.”
Today in Yerevan, ecologists claim, there are less than 500 hectares of
green zone left, due, they say, which are also endangered due to to
political wrongdoing and ignorance.

Concrete replaces greenery.
Dovlatyan says that every official of Yerevan guarantees that there will be
no permission to build new buildings and cafes. But the promises are broken
and green zones are destroyed especially by the officials and their
relatives, in order to build personal homes or entertainment businesses.
ArmeniaNow asked Former Yerevan City Chief Architect, Narek Sargsyan (under
whose adminstration most cafes were built) if he was aware of a potential
lawsuit against the city.
“Yes, when you build something in this town, at the end you will be sued,”
Sargsyan said.
The Chief Architect would not say whether he had issued permits for the
structures which the ecologists say are illegal.
“For the last few years the summer heat became awful, which is also the
result of the green zones destruction. There is no air for breathing,” says
the leader of the Armenian Aryan Community Armen Avetisyan, who also joined
the ecologists. “This is a cultural-historical massacre, which needs to be
Dovlatyan says, that besides the heat, the destruction of the green zones in
the capital became the reason for strong winds as well as the rise of heart
and respiratory diseases.
“I can give you an example from Nork Forest, next to which I live,” says
National Assembly deputy Arshak Sadoyan, citing a green area scheduled to be
reduced by 80 percent for construction. “When I look at the forest it hurts
me and I start to think: ‘What are we doing to the future of our children?
Yerevan has to have lungs, but we have already lost those lungs. And by this
action (the letter) we will try to protect our citizens and give back lungs
to Yerevan.”
The coalition of ecologists is starting a signature campaign to collect
endorsements by citizens who share their concern. Since it started a week
ago, some 2,500 signatures have been collected. The group hopes to gather
10,000 signatures, and, if demands are not met, plans to sue the Government.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress