Issues

The three widely recognized tenets of sustainable development are: 1) Environmental Development; 2) Economic Development; and 3) Social Development. There is often overlap among the three.

A quick look at the diagram on the left shows a relatively simplified model of the           sometimes intricate and complex relationships that develop when balancing environmental, economic, and social factors in development.

A balance between economic and environmental factors would create a viable economy; a balance between environmental and social factors would create a liveable, or pleasant, society; and a balance between social and economic factors would create fair trade.

To balance among all three factors creates truly sustainable development, and of course is the most challenging type of development to achieve.

AEN works to connect people on the ground in Armenia with others who support activities that bring about positive change. Below are some of our areas of interest–click on each title to learn more about the issues.

 

Environmental Development: Natural Resource Management in Armenia

Wetlands

During the Soviet era, many Armenian wetlands were drained to create additional croplands.  Now, the importance of wetland ecosystems is being spotlighted on a global level, and efforts to restore wetlands are underway.  The protests of farmers who have used these drained lands for generations are emblematic of the significant moral dilemmas in contemporary development issues.  The key is to find solutions that benefit people, in the short term financially and in the long term by respecting the environment.

“Microclimate” Change and Biodiversity

The “human footprint”–or the ways in which natural landscapes have been altered to serve man’s interests–has combined with the increasing global temperature, resulting in what is known as “microclimate change” in Armenia.  This means that different parts of the country are experiencing unique and separate results of global climate change.  In addition, there are many species of animals that are unique to Armenia and with this climate change, rampant deforestation and other land use changes, many of these animals are under threat.

Lake Sevan

Lake Sevan is a natural treasure, in every sense of the word.  It is the largest alpine high mountain freshwater lake in the Caucasus region and provides Armenia with abundant water for irrigation, recreation and hydroelectric power.  In addition, it nurtures vital habitat for birds and mammals as well as amphibians and fish, including the endemic ishkhan trout.  It is also in danger of being permanently and irreparably damaged.

Deforestation and Illegal Logging

It is a common misconception that the destruction of Armenia’s forests is primarily due to domestic energy demand.  While many trees are, indeed, felled for fuelwood, the greatest threat to Armenia’s forests comes not from rural populations cutting trees for warmth in winter — but from corrupt government practices that allow illegal logging at a rate so dangerous that the World Bank has predicted that, if left unchecked, there will be no forests left in Armenia by 2020.

Energy

Nuclear, thermal, and large hydropower are the main energy sources in Armenia. Each of these types of energy come with their own controversies. But clean, renewable energy is rapidly becoming an established industry around much of the globe.  Armenia need not be an exception to this trend as it is blessed with abundant sunshine and water resources.  Producing clean energy would provide jobs, energy security and protect Armenia’s fragile ecological treasures.   Review the links below for information regarding Armenia’s potential and need for clean energy industries.

Agriculture

Armenia has a limited amount of arable land, but the soils it does have are fertile and provide much of the food for the country. Deforestation and pesticide use have contributed to the salinization and degradation of these crucial lands.

Aquaculture

Aquaculture is another industry with the potential for large growth in Armenia. Created and managed in an environmentally sustainable manner, “fish farming” could prove beneficial for local economies and could have less impact on natural resources.

 

Economic Development: Industry Practices and Opportunities in Armenia

Any form of sustainable development within a society necessarily rests on a healthy economic system and an open, transparent government that recognizes and promotes civic participation. Violations of Armenians’ fundamental right to a healthy environment unfortunately continue on a wide scale in the name of private profit and benefit. Armenians need not choose between economic development and a clean environment. Countries around the world are finding new ways to achieve economic benefit from environmentally sound practices.

As we move toward a future in which economics and environment are increasingly acknowledged as intertwined, we should understand the “big picture” of economic development. An AEN partner organization, Policy Forum Armenia (PFA), has produced several thorough reports on the state of the economy in Armenia. Click here to access PFA’s page and their reports.

Mining projects

Mining, by its very nature, has a negative impact on the environment.  Many countries, however, have adopted standards of operation that exhibit a greater sensitivity to the protection, preservation and restoration of the surrounding environment.  These practices include, among others, reforestation, where applicable, and environmentally sound disposal of tailings and other waste material.  Unfortunately, the Republic of Armenia does not follow such standards, despite public heavy public protest, with particular focus on the destruction of Teghut Forest.  Quick and decisive action is required to prevent a possible environmental catastrophe.

Waste Management and Recycling

The Republic of Armenia has hundreds of landfills and various dump sites across the country.  To date, not one has been constructed to even the minimal accepted industry standards.  In the urban areas there is a real and growing potential for a public health calamity.  Uncontained leachates, dangerous methane buildups and uncontrolled burning are all capable of introducing toxins into the air, streams and water tables around densely populated areas. Recycling of inorganic waste is one way forward with major potential.

“Green Services”: Ecotourism and Agrotourism

Traditional development paradigms have led many people to believe that a country must choose between economic growth and environmental conservation.  Over the decades and in many different countries, experts have learned that the opposite is true.  Environmental projects and campaigns can actually have positive economic effects and can dramatically benefit local economies.

Rural Development

The tendency for urban areas to receive the most national and international attention, and the most development funds, leaves many rural areas, especially the most remote areas, isolated and ignored.

 

Social Development: Civil Society, Democracy Building, and Public Health

Transparency

Institutional corruption goes beyond the typical scene with officials pulling cars over on the street and collecting “illegal tolls,” or bribes.  Withholding information that is crucial to public health, intimidating people to not ask questions or take action on urgent environmental problems, and misallocation of public funds that could otherwise be used to improve environmentally related aspects of civil society, are all part of the larger democratic struggle against corruption.  Media and transparency organizations are especially helpful in empowering local populations to stand up for their rights.

Legal and Policy Development

There are already many well-written and superficially satisfactory environmental laws in Armenia. However, enforcement of these laws has proven extremely difficult.  In this way, the environmental movement in Armenia shares in the larger fight for overall reform in the Armenian legal system. The Republic of Armenia has also signed many international conventions on issues relating to the environment and other aspects of democratic development.  As with domestic legal enforcement problems, it is the implementation of the agreements to which Armenia is a party that has proven most difficult.  However, a few pioneering projects have given the prospect for implementation new hope.

Community Development and Green Spaces

Campaigns are now mobilizing to stop the destruction of “green spaces,” or urban recreational areas.  Community development, especially in Armenian culture, goes hand in hand with quality of life.

Public Health

In addition to a range of water contamination problems, misinformation about basic health care and safety issues pose serious threats to Armenia’s residents.

Information Access

People often lack access to information about their environment, with dangerous consequences for themselves and their families. Even when they do have information, many feel that they are powerless to change the situation. Aarhus Centers around Armenia are helping to create a power shift by supplying environmental information and by increasing networking and campaigning against activities that harm environment and people.

 

 

 

Keep yourself updated on the latest Armenia-specific environmental news.  Subscribe to   ECOLUR Information Network‘s mailing list, in English, Armenian, and Russian. 

 

 



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