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AN EXAMINATION OF LAWS AFFECTING LAKE SEVAN "Law Concerning Lake Sevan" and "Overall and Annual Plans for Lake Sevan" Armenian News Network / Groong January 7, 2003 by The Greens Union of Armenia Translated and Edited by Anne Shirinian-Orlando [Note: All data in this document is official government data obtained from various ministries. ] BRIEF HISTORY Lake Sevan, located in the Caucasus region and in the extreme northeast of the Armenian Plateau, is one of the largest high altitude freshwater lakes in the world. The lake is surrounded by high volcanic mountains, which rise to over 3,500 meters above sea level. About thirty rivers and streams flow into the lake and only one river, Hrazdan, flows out through a gorge, falling down by 1,000 meters from the level of the lake. Since the intensive exploitation of Hrazdan River began, the level of the lake drastically dropped (by about 19 meters), and the lake eutrophied. Eventually, many hydroelectric power stations were built on Hrazdan, collectively known as the Sevan-Hrazdan cascade, which were routing the water for irrigation down to the fields in the valley, while producing electricity during the irrigation season. The drop in the lake's water level necessitated building the Arpa-Sevan 48 Km tunnel, which, after many years of construction through the mountains, began supplying water to the lake, in 1981, from part of the Arpa river. Another tunnel, Vorotan, has been built in recent years, to supply water to Lake Sevan. Vorotan is expected to begin operation very soon. The Arpa-Sevan tunnel needs rehabilitation - it is loosing water to the surrounding earth. INTRODUCTION In the year 2001, the National Assembly of Armenia (the Parliament) passed the "Law of Lake Sevan" (Law). Much effort had been spent in formulating this law: many working groups of specialists and managers and various commissions, such as the Commission on Health, the Commission on Social Issues, the Commission on Nature Conservancy, etc., collaborated to design the Law. Afterwards, the Law was presented to the public as an exemplary sample of environmental legislation, one that will eventually solve the problems of Lake Sevan. Unfortunately, this is not true. The Law not only will not solve the problems of Lake Sevan, it will in fact exacerbate the lake's environmental problems. Below, discussions and comments are offered on certain articles of the Law proving that, indeed, the Law needs a thorough review and rewriting. We are hoping that the Law will be re-examined in its entirety since we have chosen only segments for analysis and discussion. TERMINOLOGY AND LANGUAGE In the many articles of the Law (in particular, Article #1), scientific terms and expressions are repeated, sometimes are inaccurate, poorly defined or not defined, and usage is sloppy with mistakes. There is an abundance of vague expressions (which are typically used in loan or grant based program documents), such as assessments, regulations, improvement, planning, structuring, restructuring, development, etc., which, being highly unspecific, create favorable conditions for corruption. For example, the first paragraph of Article #29 reads: "In the immediate zone of influence, the following are being realized: a) complete assessment of conditions of landscapes and improvement of landscape structures. b) defining regulations for the planning, programming and financing of activities for the restoration and for the preservation of landscapes. c) defining and regulating the allowable limits of environmental stresses resulting from economic, recreational, tourism and health related activities. d) defining the overall requirements of development policy for town construction, architecture, transportation substructures, as well as regulating and overseeing design and construction work. e) regulation of road use for roads that are currently in use and for new roads that are being constructed. f) inventory of natural and historic monuments, defining regulations of their use for the purpose of restoring and preserving them. g) any activity which aids the phenomena of flooding and landslides." In particular, note the use of the word "aids" in (g). This word must be replaced with the word "prevents". Due to lack of funds, flood and landslide mitigation efforts have completely ceased in spite of the fact that they cause great economic damage as well as pollute the lake. Certain statements are abstract and unrealistic. For example, Article #10 states: "Any type of activity, which is damaging to the environment of Lake Sevan is forbidden in the central, immediate and not-immediate zones of influence." Unfortunately, the definitions of "central", "immediate" and "not-immediate" zones are found scattered in other articles. But the main problem is that the above statement in Article #10 requires that all industrial, agricultural activities and transportation cease, since all these activities of the 270,000 people inhabiting the watershed basin of the lake are damaging activities. Furthermore, the Law also forbids damaging activities outside of the immediate physical zone of the lake's watershed basin. These activities may include, for example, the emissions of the thermoelectric power plant of the town of Hrazdan, which can easily reach and pollute the water of Lake Sevan, or, chemical industrial activities in Ararat Valley, etc. In addition, one must remember that the lake's watershed basin is densely populated and crisscrossed with roads. Thus, the Law's super-strict requirements are irrelevant. CONTRADICTIONS At the same time, in Article #10, one encounters statements and loopholes contrary to the strict uncompromising requirements regarding prevention of all activity damaging to the environment of Lake Sevan. For example, one reads: "In the zone of immediate influence, the following are illegal: a) emissions, which are exceeding the allowable limits, and use of wastewater producing technologies... d) production of thermal energy based on coal and liquid fuel, where the energy producing plant will produce greater than 10 Megawatt of power, is forbidden." It is worth mentioning that emissions exceeding the legal norms, as well as wastewater producing technologies are already illegal throughout Armenia. Regarding part d), it is a loophole, because one can have hundreds of coal and liquid fuel based energy producing units in the watershed basin, each one with a power production capacity of slightly less than 10 MW. Furthermore, the wording of d) implies that, in the lake's watershed basin, thermal energy producing units based on other sources, such as natural gas, wood, organic wastes, etc., are allowed with NO restrictions on their power production capacities. Thus, part d) almost prompts entrepreneurs to build such energy producing units. Also, there is a lack of specifications of allowable limits on emissions. In Article #4, there is a statement regarding the ownership of the coastal transition zones (stretching as far as 150 meters in width, in some places). It is stated that these transition belts around Lake Sevan are the inalienable properties of the government. Here, one may ask the question, "Whose property is the remaining territory of Lake Sevan National Park that lies beyond the 150 meters and stretches outward several kilometers from the lake, in some spots?" Similarly, there is no statement concerning the ownership of the roads, the mountain slopes, the inhabited land, all within the watershed basin of Lake Sevan. This may not be an accident. In the year 2000, Sevan National Park (SNP) acquired the status of a government owned closed shareholding company, and in 2001, another status was given to the park - a non-commercial organization. It seems that SNP is gradually being expelled from the government's budget of financial responsibilities. Is a Separate Law on Lake Sevan Needed? What is the Role of the Lake Sevan Commission? Discussions on creating a separate law for Lake Sevan began in 1994-95, when there was talk about receiving a World Bank (WB) grant for the realization of a plan for Lake Sevan. Eventually, WB provided the funding and, during the years of 1996-98, the "Lake Sevan Action Program for the Restoration of the Ecological Balance of the Lake" (LSAP) was created. Since then, LSAP has become "The Constitution" for creating all legislation and regulation in the field of environmental protection of Lake Sevan and its watershed basin. Now, in LSAP, on page 26, it was suggested that in order to end all legislative contradictions and dissentions regarding Lake Sevan, all laws concerning the problems of the lake and its basin be "consolidated" into a one single piece of separate law, which delegates the entire task of restoration and preservation of Lake Sevan and its watershed basin to the Lake Sevan Commission. LSAP also promised 300,000 US dollars for the preparation, as well as for the approval, of a law on Lake Sevan, which will include implementation mechanisms, and, another 100,000 US dollars for the strengthening of the law, enforcement and oversight. First of all, it is enormously challenging to include all the laws affecting Lake Sevan's condition in a "single law". And, if created, such a law must indeed serve the function of dissolving all the contradictions and confusion regarding all the previous legislation concerning the welfare of Lake Sevan and its basin. However, the new Law has failed in this respect by creating new contradictions. For example, legislation of the Republic of Armenia delegates the task of final and conclusive environmental assessments to the Ministry of Nature Protection (MONP). Now, according to the Law, there is a new additional body - The Commission on Lake Sevan, which, in parallel to MONP, is responsible for these tasks for the territory covering the lake and its watershed basin (and possibly beyond the immediate zone of influence). As Article #20 states, all the following tasks are delegated to the Commission on Lake Sevan - preliminary and final environmental assessments, development of recommendations and conclusions based on these assessments, gathering data and conducting research, and, developing the "Overall and Annual Plans" for Lake Sevan and its basin. How can the same body (the Commission) be allowed to perform all the mentioned tasks - the research, all environmental assessments, development of plans and reporting? Obviously, this set-up is contrary to the intent of improving the lake's condition. It is worth mentioning that Article #19 determines that the Commission be created within the structure of the National Academy of Sciences and that all the operational expenses including the salaries of the members of the Commission be covered by the government. Thus, the Commission, as created by the Law (as the Law was created by LSAP), quickly developed and presented to the National Assembly the "Overall and Annual Plans" for Lake Sevan and its basin, based on conducted research, assessments and data gathering. The National Assembly quickly approved the presented plans and passed them into law - The Law on Approval of Overall and Annual Plans of Restoration, Preservation, Reproduction and Usage of Ecosystems of Lake Sevan - on December 14, 2001. Thus, the "Overall and Annual Plans" determine the future of Lake Sevan and its basin. As stated by Article #12 of the Law, "Government policy regarding the restoration, preservation, reproduction and usage of the ecosystems of Lake Sevan will be carried out according to the timetables and rules defined in the Overall Plan on Lake Sevan". Let us examine the "Overall and Annual Plans" and see what future is being offered to Lake Sevan. OVERALL AND ANNUAL PLANS Here too, just as in the Law, terminology usage is sloppy, sometimes with mistakes. However, one of the main problems with this plan lies in the section "Report on Lake Sevan's and its Watershed Basin's Water Reserves, Plant and Animal World, Ecological Subsystems" (Report). In this section, Lake Sevan's year 2000 water balance is presented and affirmed without any scientific basis. For example, the following is offered: Input into Lake (million cubic meters) Output from Lake (million cubic meters) Rivers, streams less than 740.5 Hrazdan River 190.0 Arpa-Sevan Tunnel less than 311.1 Evaporation 1370.9 Precipitation on lake 388.0 Loss to Aquifer 14.4 Groundwater flow 94.2 ----- ------ Total 1533.8 Total 1575.3 First of all, missing is the fact that annually, in recent years, 120 to 130 million cubic meters of water is directly pumped out of the lake for industrial and municipal usage of the surrounding towns. More importantly, the number for loss due to evaporation (1370.9) is suspect. Within the period of 1927 to 2001, based on measurements, the average annual evaporation from the lake has been calculated to be 1055 million cubic meters. In 2000, the evaporation exceeded the average number of 1055 million cubic meters by 316 million cubic meters, or by 30%. This, according to the Report, is a result of global warming. The Report claims that this super-evaporation is a result of a "temperature rise of 0.70C during the last decade, while during the same period, the precipitation has dropped by 6%." (Supposedly, the volumes of water flows, precipitation and air temperature have all been accurately measured. The Report predicts increases of evaporation for Lake Sevan in the coming years as a result of climate change. Now, an earlier study (financed by international grant money) had produced a report titled "Armenia - Climate Change in the Country". This report displays a map predicting the conversion of Lake Sevan into two smaller lakes separated by 15 km, with one of the lakes having turned into a swamp. Another publication resulting from the same study titled "Questions of Climate Change", Yerevan, 1999, has predicted the following (see pages 153-167): "...in the event of 10C temperature rise, the average annual evaporation from the surface of Lake Sevan will increase by about 70 mm, or, by 8.3%, for a 20C temperature rise - 116mm, or, 13.5%". Thus, one can clearly conclude that even with a 0.70C temperature rise, it is impossible to get a 30% increase in evaporation. Thus, through the Report, the Plan offers a very bleak future for Lake Sevan, since the evaporation from the lake will be increasing drastically each year. (This approach is also evident in academician G. Avakyan's book "Save Sevan", 1999, where he states that bringing water into Lake Sevan through tunnels, such as Vorotan or Arpa-Sevan, is not an effective operation, because almost all the water flowing from the tunnels into the lake will be evaporated - 240 million cubic meters out of 250 million cubic meters for Arpa-Sevan Tunnel, and 158 million cubic meters out of 165 million cubic meters for Vorotan Tunnel. In general, G. Avakyan finds all efforts to raise the level of the lake unproductive because of large evaporation increases associated with a larger lake surface. Actually, previous measurements show that with a larger volume of water body, the lake's water temperature changes, such that the surface temperature becomes cooler - hence, LESS evaporation.) A closer examination reveals that the water is "missing" and not evaporated (see Facts section, below). Another major problem with the Plan is the following. In the section titled "Monitoring and Oversight", the "Overall and Annual Plans" define the following: "The Ministry of Nature Protection, as a government sanctioned body in the sphere of nature protection, will be responsible for the Plan's implementation. The monitoring of the Plan's implementation will also be assigned to the Ministry of Nature Protection. The Plan's independent assessments, as well as all the professional studies/assessments will be carried out by the Commission on Lake Sevan's Preservation. The oversight on the implementation of "Overall and Annual Plans" will be carried out by the National Assembly." (see page 14 of Plan). Obviously, there is a conflict of interest: the Ministry of Nature Protection is responsible both for the implementation of the Plan and for the monitoring of the implementation. In addition, redundantly, another oversight is assigned to the National Assembly, which does not have mechanisms or any means to conduct monitoring checks on the implementation of the Plan. However, it is suggested that all the Plan's activities, such as creation of projects, implementation of projects, etc., be reported to the National Assembly (Parliament). Also, it is recommended that independent environmental assessments be carried out by a body other than the Commission, which is strongly influenced by funding sources. Yet another problem with the "Annual Plan" is the following. Out of the 20 suggested projects only seven have been funded, with 80% of funding coming from international sources, mainly bank loans. One wonders whether these international funding organizations are the ones determining the future of Lake Sevan... For example, one of the funded projects is the "restoration" project of Gili Lake (a small lake near Sevan Lake). One million dollars has been allocated to this project without performing any geologic, hydro-geologic investigations and/or studies of the site. Yet, this project had been approved in the "Annual Plan" of 2000! All our efforts to find out about the 2002 Plan and its implementation work have failed so far. In summary, we would like to state that the "Overall and Annual Plans" lack project justification studies, the projects are vaguely defined and lack specifications of volume of work, implementation schedules and objective conclusions based on scientific investigations. FACTS Those who assign the unexplained deficit in the water balance of Lake Sevan to evaporation must consider the facts proving that it is simply incorrect. A piece of evidence is the letter of the Chief Prosecutor of the Republic of Armenia addressed to the Prime Minister of Armenia (N5-9/14-00, 17.11.2000). In this letter, the Chief Prosecutor cites several instances of illegal water withdrawals, several instances of invalid readings of the volume of withdrawn water (broken seals - compromised measuring devices) and disagreement between readings of the volume of withdrawn water from different recording stations. He ends his letter by stating that after examining much evidence, documentation, tables of energy output versus input water, etc., he can claim that water flow measuring devices, in general, are in poor state, left over from the 50s, and thus, unable to perform accurate readings. Also, he states that because the readings are faulty, conditions are created for cheating in the reporting of withdrawn volumes of water, as well as in the amount of hydro-electricity produced by the Sevan hydro-electric station utilizing the withdrawn water from Lake Sevan. Another piece of evidence is the letter of the Chief of the Department of Standards of the Armenian government (N1/37-1105, 12.07.2000) addressed to the Minister of Nature Protection. Here is an excerpt from the letter: "...concerning the Sevan hydo-electric station, we cannot consider it as a measuring junction, because it is not equipped with the necessary required construction structures and technologic means." Thus, the above mentioned letters point to the fact that the problems of Lake Sevan and its basin have become unmanageable under present conditions, as already explained in the article "The Condition of Lake Sevan is Unmanageable" (published in "Golos Armenii" newspaper, 08.06.1999). There are no flow measuring devices functioning in any of the 28 rivers and streams flowing into the lake. In addition, no measurements of water levels are carried out in any of the tributaries, there are no functioning devices to measure direct precipitation on the lake, evaporation from the lake, lake water temperature, volume of water directly pumped out of the lake, as well as out of the tributaries. The only river/stream flowing out of Lake Sevan is Hrazdan River, which has the hydro-electric station built on it. There are no independent measurements of the volume of water released from Lake Sevan for the purpose of producing electricity (the release concurrently provides irrigation water). The only measurements of water withdrawals from Lake Sevan (via Hrazdan River) are carried out at the hydro-electric station and are unreliable, approximate at best, as indicated in the letter of the Chief of the Department of Standards of Armenia. Tracing the history of water balance calculations, it is evident that, before and including the year 1996, the unexplained deficit of water balance was not being explained by super-evaporation theory - extreme evaporation resulting from global warming. For example, for the years 1992, 1993 and 1994, the following volumes of water were claimed to be released for irrigation - 416.1 million cubic meters, 649.3 million cubic meters and 570.1 million cubic meters respectively. Meanwhile, total average annual withdrawal during the same years (through Hrazdan River alone) was 1,300 million cubic meters. This shows that during those years, large quantities of water were released in wintertime, purely for the production of hydro-electricity. In recent years (1999, 2000, 2001), the official water withdrawal rate for irrigation had been lowered to 173 million cubic meters annually. However, in reality, it is believed to be a much higher rate because of very large losses of irrigation water in irrigation canals and, also, because of irrigation methods. Thus, for example, water withdrawn from Lake Sevan (through Hrazdan River) irrigates about 25,000 hectares of land at a rate of about 8,000 cubic meters of water per hectare, instead of irrigating at a more efficient rate of 5,000 cubic meters of water per hectare, in the event of small losses. Thus, irrigation water use is highly inefficient. In 1996, the extra water withdrawal of 81 million cubic meters from Lake Sevan was justified as being required by the Nuclear Power Station's safe operation (see Prime Minister A. Sargsyan's 1996 decision -Dec. 30, N691, allowing an extra withdrawal of up to 30 million cubic meters). Then, in 1997, Prime Minister R. Kocharian signed on a decision (Nov. 18, N513) to allow an extra withdrawal of 45 million cubic meters, in addition to all the planned withdrawals. In 1998, the next Prime Minister, A. Darpinian, signed on a decision (Dec 25, N893) allowing extra withdrawals using the following excuse - "the need to have a continuous operation of the Sevan hydro-electric station in order to secure the safe operation of the energy producing system." In summary, it is obvious that the volume of water released from Lake Sevan must be carefully measured and accounted for. Extra withdrawals cannot simply be allocated to irrigation, or to the continuous operation of the Sevan hydro-electric station (which, by the way, has always used a small volume of water in wintertime for its safe operation), or, to the safety of Nuclear Power Station, or, finally to super-evaporation. CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS "The Law Concerning Lake Sevan" and the "Overall and Annual Plans" are faulty pieces of legislation, and are not only misleading documents, but are seriously damaging to all efforts of managing the problems of Lake Sevan and its watershed basin. WE ARE SUGGESTING THE FOLLOWING: - "The Law Concerning Lake Sevan" and "Overall and Annual Plans" need to be re-examined and revised. (Perhaps this process may discourage future attempts of creating legislation specific to an object). - Certain points need to be added to the Law, such as limiting the number of boats on the lake, and, also, forbidding privatization of Vorotan Tunnel, since privatizing this tunnel may interfere with transporting the water into Lake Sevan. - Government officials, as well as professionals, responsible for ill conceived policies and faulty operations/projects must be held accountable for their mistakes. - Put a stop to international funding and technical assistance aimed at changing our laws, and/or creating new laws, for the moment, until more urgent problems are addressed. - Use the funding to install measurement and monitoring devices. It is completely unknown, for example, how much water is being directly pumped out of Lake Sevan and its tributaries, how much is being withdrawn from Lake Sevan via the Hrazdan River for the operation of the energy producing hydro-electric station, as well as for the purpose of irrigation. -- The Greens Union is an officially registered environmental (non-profit) non-governmental organization (NGO). Its main goals are -preservation of nature and of natural resources, prevention of ecological and environmental disasters and promotion of non-polluting sustainable technologies (such as solar energy). The Greens Union of Armenia Contact: Dr. Hakob Sanasarian, President of The Greens Union Address: Mamikoniants St. 47-13, Yerevan, Armenia. Telephone: (374-2) 257 -634. US Contact: Dr. Anne Shirinian, phone/fax (732) 462-9089 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org