Last chance for the forests of Armenia
Oneworld.net, the leading portal for human rights and sustainable development issues, has just published my story on the battle to save Shikahogh and the public meeting held earlier today.
The World Wildlife Fund surveys the route of the proposed new highway, Mtnadzor, Siunik Region, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian
Incidentally, just in case there's any confusion, there is no direct connection between Oneworld Multimedia and Oneworld.net apart from the fact that in 1997, they published my photo essay on the Kurds and Human Rights in Turkey. That said, since the beginning of 2005, I have been Oneworld.net's volunteer editor for Armenia.
Government-connected businessmen and state officials engaged in the illegal export of timber from Armenia are mostly to blame for the former Soviet republic’s dwindling number of forests. Whereas 11 per cent of the republic was covered by forests in 1991, the figure stands at below 8 per cent today. Environmentalists warn that unless current trends are reversed, Armenia will be forestless by 2024.The story can be read online here.
In recent weeks, such concerns have have been reinforced by plans to build a highway through the Shikahogh Nature Reserve situated in the southern-most Siunik region of the republic. Tens of thousands of trees in the reserve will be felled in government plans to build a second, 90-kilometer road leading to the Iranian border. Shikahogh is habitat for over 1000 species of plants and fauna such as leopards.
Environmental activists and NGOs in Armenia are up in arms against this latest threat especially as work on the $16 million project has already begun.