A road is being built in Armenia’s Khosrov Forest State Reserve.
Armenia’s Ministry of the Environment says the road is for fire prevention purposes.
Clean drinking water flows from the spring directly under a canopy of trees. Under the spring is the Azat River gorge. The medieval monastery complex of Havouts Tar is located 150-200 meters from the spring.
And all this can be found in the “Khosrov Forest” State Reserve. Legally speaking, it enjoys the highest protection level under the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
A pathway runs to the spring from the entrance to the reserve. You have to walk a little under two kilometres to get there, i.e. the distance designed for road construction.
The road construction caused real sensation in on-line social networks. Rumor has it that tycoons and top officials intend to seize Khosrov.
To clarify the situation an on-site inspection team visited the area on July 6 comprising of WWF-Armenia Director Karen Manvelyan; CNF, Caucasus Nature Fund, representative Arman Vermishyan; Lawyer Meri Khachatryan and EcoLur President Inga Zarafyan. Reserve employees and activists, as well as Teghout supporters, joined up with the team at the Reserve.
The old road, which was used to transport equipment, is being expanded. Heavy machinery has already reached the place where the old road finishes. There is no road for cars beyond here. You have to walk the narrow pathway to reach the spring.
Head of the Garni Branch of the Khosrov Reserve, Sargis Hovhannisyan explains, “If the road runs to the spring, workers can use spring in case of fire. Right now the road ends some 400 meters from the spring. It should reach the springs. People also go to the springs to wash and fetch water. It’s some work walking 400 meters to and fro.”
Khosrov Reserve comprises 30, ooo hectares. Fires can break out at any moment in any section. So why it was decided to construct a road in the place most frequently visited by tourists – Havouts Tar Monastery and the spring.
Has heavy machinery been brought in only for extinguishing fires and an opportunity to wash? And who will guarantee that the road will be used only in case of fires or other disasters? In our opinion, nobody will.
Let’s remind readers that’s it’s already a year and a half since the ministry can’t make it out what to do with half-finished restaurant in the Baybourt neighborhood (or Gilan). The restaurant, in the heart of reserve, was supposed to be a tourist center, and for this purpose 118 hectares were downgraded to wildlife preserve status, i.e. a specially protected area with a lower protection level. Now, this area has recovered its status of a reserve, while the construction was left.
Over time, the building has started to fall apart and has become overgrown with grass. The unattached roof may collapse. Whatever standards you choose, this construction should be torn down as illegal. But the government didn’t accept this public offer. It’s still unknown who will take over the structure and finish building it. Now we have the road issue to contend with as well.
WWF-Armenia Director Karen Manvelyan says, “The best way to move through the reserve is on horseback, and environmental foundations can assist the Reserve in this issue.”
Regarding the road, Karen Manvelyan suggests that construction be halted and not to lay a new road on tourist path, so that tourists or lovers of fresh air are not enticed to have picnics near the spring.
He also thinks barriers should be put at the entrance.