Friday, January 14, 2011

PFA issues new report on state of Armenia’s environment…

Policy Forum Armenia has issued its first annual report on The State of Armenia’s Environment. According to its website, PFA has a “hybrid mission,” operating as a think tank and an advocacy group. With an international network of members, PFA’s stated objective is to offer professional analysis with innovative and practical recommendations for public policy design.

The 32-page study provides an overview of environmental challenges facing Armenia in areas including water resources, air pollution, the adequacy of nature reserves, deforestation, and energy. The report argues that improving environmental governance requires increased transparency and public participation in policy decisions as well as the enforcement of existing environmental laws.

A major section of the report is a case study of the open pit copper mine in northern Armenia, where the Teghut Forest has been cleared to create a tailing dump. “[Teghut] is an example of one facility where both urgent policy changes and adequate enforcement of existing policies are needed,” notes PFA.

The authors state that Armenia is a country of rich biodiversity with more than 3,500 plant species and 17,500 invertebrate and vertebrate species including the endangered Caucasian Leopard. However, mismanagement and the rapid growth of some sectors of the economy during the last decade created serious environmental challenges. The report concludes that “environmental protection should constitute a key element of Armenia’s developmental strategy.”

“Despite the fact that the prevailing developmental policy thinking is heavily skewed toward extractive industries, decisions about whether or not to undertake new large-scale projects with potentially sizable environmental impact in Armenia must be considered with the country’s long-term benefits and objectives in mind,” notes the PFA study.

It is especially interesting that PFA’s second “state of the nation” report has addressed environmental issues, particularly since this integral aspect of sustainable development has not been widely considered in Armenia. For example, a 2006 conference hosted by the Armenian International Policy Research Group titled, Armenia: Challenges of Sustainable Development, did not give environmental issues any consideration on the agenda.

The focus of sustainable development in Armenia has been on economic and social issues, while attention to environmental conservation has not been widely understood as a current strategic priority. Hopefully this annual report will contribute to a broader understanding of sustainable development and raise the level of dialogue to a new level.