Armenia Economy Environment

Government bill threatens Lake Sevan

On August 21, 2008 the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia adopted a government bill giving green light to increased water release from Lake Sevan. According to the original law 240 million cubic meters of water should have been taken from the lake to be used for electricity generating via Hrazdan Cascade and irrigation puposes. The new bill will allow the release of 360 million cubic meters of water.

The authorities are explaining the need for increased water outflow from Sevan with the short summer drought and low water availability in artificial water resrvoirs used for irrigation purposes. This is the first such increase for the past 8 years, since a law on the lake’s protection was adopted in 2001. Meanwhile environmentalists are protesting the measure and claiming, that “the government simply wants to salvage expensive houses and resorts located along Sevan’s coastline. Those properties have been at growing risk of being submerged by Sevan’s rising waters” as RFE/RL reports.

Before the heated debates in the parliament yesterday, the authorities had been preparing public opinion in favour of water release from the lake in the course of the past two-three weeks by showing news reports and footage of drained artificial reservoirs and dry gardens of Ararat valley. No news reports ever indicated the existence of concerns among environmental protection groups or independent scientists. Moreover, there were several rainfalls throughout the country within the past two weeks, which would seem to have alleviated the problem of water shortage, especially as most of the farmers have gathered the harvest by now and shouldn’t need as much water (as I have a small garden in the south of Yerevan, I know first-hand what I’m talking about here).

The Sevan Defense Initiative have disseminated a call to protest the government bill. “According to the opinion of independent scientists duplication of the
volume of released water from Lake Sevan is impermissible and dangerous
for the lake. Climate conditions during 2008 have not been as
unfavorable as to generate a need for a measure. While, the declared
increase of demand for irrigation water is not justified adequately” the call states.

Armenia Sport

Armenia 2 – 1 Turkey

Henrik Mkhitaryan scored the late winner in Yerevan (© Khachik Chakhoyan)
Unzipped has an exciting post about the surprise win of the Armenian national youth team (European Championship Qualifying Stage of the Under 21 Championship) over Turkey.  Although the game was not that significant and the youth teams are rarely considered important, the fact that the game took place between these two countries which lack diplomatic relations since Turkey closed the Armenian border in 1993 is seen an important first step, to be followed by a game between the national teams of Armenia and Turkey on September 6th.
Although the chances of the Armenian team to win on the September 6 match are rather slim, the win of the youth team has inspired Armenian football fans with renewed confidence.
The game is very promising from a diplomatic perspective as well. Armenian president Serge Sargsian had invited the Turkish president Abdullah Gul to visit Yerevan and watch the game in July. Abdullah Gul has been postponing his decision about accepting or rejecting the invitation. Possible protests in Armenia against Turkish President’s visits are among the reasons for Gul’s hesitation and ARF-Dashnaktsutyun have said they’ll definately stage actions in Yerevan.
At any rate, thousands of Turkish fans are also expected to arrive in Yerevan for the match and the Armenian authorities have already promised to slash visa fees for them. According to some Armenian media reports the Turkish fans have applied to their government asking them to open the Turkey-Armenian border for one day, so they could use the Kars-Gyumri railway to arrive in Armenia and cheer for their team. If true, this might become another significant development in establishing relations between the two neighboring countries.