Environmental issues in Armenia
Armenia’s environment became severely polluted during the Soviet period. The Soviet government pushed heavy industry development to a massive scale, throughout the Soviet Union. The government ignored the environmental harm caused by these industries for too long, but in the 1980s liberalizing political reforms in the USSR resulted in the formation of environmental groups, which began to express concerns about the state of the environment.
Due to the pressure of these groups, several factories in Armenia that were sources of severe pollution were closed, starting from 1989. One of these, a rubber and chemical plant in Nairit, reopened in 1992. as Armenia needed the income generated by exporting the plant’s products. Although national environmental laws have been put into effect in Armenia since it became independent, no comprehensive environmental protection program has emerged, and environmental initiatives are typically addressed to an ad hoc basis.
In an attempt to offset a six-year-old energy crisis caused by blockades by Azerbaijan and Turkey, the Armenian government in mid-1995 reactivated a nuclear power plant at Metsamor, close since 1988. after the catastrophic earthquake in northern Armenia. Environmental groups opposed reopening of the plant, since it poses an environmental threat. Although it is in an earthquake-prone area, it was not built to withstand earthquakes. Portions of Armenia also were rapidly deforested during the winters of 1992, 1993, and 1994, as trees were often the only available source of fuel.
Armenian government claims they are ready to shut the plant down, as soon as they get able to replace its energy production with alternative energy sources. Soil intoxication is yet another problem and a result of reckless use of pesticides, in order to increase the yield. Usage of DDT has poisoned both soil and the rivers.
The country is almost entirely dependant on importing energy. The only domestic energy resource in use is hydropower, providing about 30% of energy demands, and the single nuclear power plant. All the natural gas for now comes from Russia, and existing inaccurate estimate of coal reserves is basis for opening a state owned coalmine.
Renewable energy sources are scarce except for the water and the wind, which might represent significant resources for the future. From 2001, 7.6% of the land in Armenia has obtained the status of protected areas.In further attempts to protect biodiversity, 10 fauna species have received a status of endangered species, from 2001 onwards.
Caucasus region already suffers serious consequences of climate changes on biodiversity and deposition of ice and snow, but climate would also have a significant effect on climate-dependent economy. One of most obvious effect on nature will be landscape zones shift towards higher altitudes, such as desert and semi-desert area which will expand for 33%, while sub-alpine and alpine zone will be reduced up to 22%. It is expected reduction of river flow, precipitation in continental regions and of agriculture yield, and increase of draught rate, precipitation in Sevana lake area, as well as expander of habitats of natural carriers of malaria and plague.
Armenia, bordering Georgia and Azerbajan, is sharing some of the same ecosystems and biodiversity of the Caucasus region, which is one of the riches areas in diversity, in Europe. However, species extinction within the region is reaching alarming rate. Therefore, the country will face same consequences of Caucasus range ice sheet melting, water reserves and biodiversity loss as two other neighboring countries.