Friday, June 17, 2005

Shikahogh Update

Garo over at Blogrel has just come back from the public hearing on plans to build a road through the Shikahogh Nature Reserve and Mtnadzor Forest. Ironically, after reminding people that this meeting was due to take place today, I didn't manage to make it. Was up working until the early hours again and overslept for the first time in many months.

Bulldozer, Siunik Region, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian

Still, we know that for the government, attending this meeting was simply a matter of formality. Anyway, this is what Garo has to say on what was said.
According to the minister of transport and communication Andranik Manukyan, 30,000 trees would be cut from the reserve. Minister Ministry of Environmental Protection Vardan Ayvazyan naturally downplayed the extent of damage to the reserve and its surroundings. All of the proposals that were received were rejected as being economically unfeasible, since they called for the road to be stretched an additional 20 kilometers or more to avoid cutting the reserve, thereby costing millions more to construct.
Garo goes on to say that the Ministry of Transport of Communications says that it is unable to take an alternate route because of the extra cost involved. However, this seems absurd given that firstly, there should be no excuse at all for destroying a centuries old forest and cutting through a Nature Reserve, thus opening it up to illegal logging, poaching, hunting and other commercial activities.

Secondly, one thing that the government is very good at is begging from the Diaspora to get money to build roads and when large organizations such as the Armenian Assembly of America have offered to help make alternate routes viable, why hasn't the government tried to secure the additional funding necessary? And what about Lincy or the World Bank? Hell, even the Georgians put in a road building and infrastructure rehabilitation project to the MCA.

Anway, as we all know, the government had no intention of looking at alternate routes. We know that because while they promised to suspend construction for 15 days, when we went down to Shikahogh last week, construction was still continuing.

Garo's blog can be read online here.

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