Despite recent coverage in Hetq regarding the illegal logging in the Djiliza and Lalvar forested areas in Lori Marz, it appears that the brazen practice is continuing, right under the nose of the HayAntar Agency.
On August 14, Hetq reporters spotted 4 trucks on the road leading to the village of Ahnidzor. Three were full of timber. The area in question falls within the Lorout management district.
We asked one of the drivers to show us a permit for the transportation of the lumber.
"It's my truck registered in my name, Grigor Grigoryan. And we have a permit. Let me see your papers," said the driver, evidently perturbed about our inquiry.
I again asked to see his permit.
"Dear girl, I told you we have a permit. No one can come here without one. Here's our boss. Go talk to him," the driver said, pointing to a young man getting out of one of the trucks.
"Who are you," I asked.
"I'm a guy from the village. I have nothing to do with all this," was his answer.
Another driver approached a showed us a piece of paper – "Beglaryan, Gagik, fuel wood, Dsegh forest enterprise, 13 cubic meters."
The driver again asked that I show my reporter's ID. I presented it to them
"Hey, we are all brothers and sisters her. Let's try to get along," said the driver, showing me his driver's license.
The driver then told me he had come from Russia and hadn't seen his wife in a month
There was no one from the Dsegh Forest Management Office around but one of the drivers said he had called the office and that the warden would soon arrive.
The men then asked me why no one writes about the fact that gas and electricity rates have gone up and that people need to burn wood as fuel.
"All I'm saying is that it must be done legally," I replied
"Legally? You can't transport the wood legally. There's no way," answered the driver.
As we were talking, a car carrying Lorout forest warden Tom Matevosyan pulled up.
"It's all being done legally. Who says there is no supervision? Who the heck am I then? There's 15,000 hectares of forest. I can't be everywhere at the same time," said Tom.
The warden went on to say that the transportation of the timber had been ordered from above – on the directive of HayAntar and the Ministry of Agriculture.
When I asked Tom why only one of the trucks had a permit and the others didn't, the warden shrugged his shoulders.
"Listen, I'm the one who signs off on the permits. They're back in the office. If you really need to see the permits, let's go to Dsegh."
Tom then remembered it was Sunday, his day off.
On the way back, we encountered a truck full of timber in the woods along the Lorout-Marts road.
When we stopped our car to take a look, 4 guys standing by the truck immediately ran away.
From deep inside the forest we heard the grumbling engine of another truck, most likely also full of timber.
In these parts it's easy to accidentally come upon people breaking the law regarding Armenia's shrinking forests.
It's much harder, nay impossible, to spot anyone with the mandate to stop them.