Narek Aleksanyan

Mini Hydro-Plants Debate: "Illegal Operators never punished"

The issue of mini hydro-plants sprouting like mushrooms across Armenia has been one of the most hotly contested issues of late in the country.

Local residents and environmental activists have, in many instances, joined forces to stem the tide of construction or at least to see that new ones are built according to legal norms.

Today, a number of sector specialists and civic organization reps took part in a roundtable discussion on the matter. Here’s what a few had to say.

Inga Zarafyan (President of Ecolur NGO) – These mini hydro-plants should not be operated for at least two months of the year, especially in the summer. Sadly, everywhere you look the opposite is happening.

The energy now produced by these mini-plants comprises 10% of what’s consumed. The price were paying to pipe our rivers is tremendous and the environment is being defiled.

Aram Gabrielyan (Coordinator of the UN’s Climate Change Framework Convention in Armenia) – We must compare energy security and environmental security and try to understand which one is paramount for us.

From a socio-economic viewpoint, hydro-plants provide little benefit to local residents. The owners are the real beneficiaries. Most of the work is automated, so any talk about new jobs is absurd.

Gevorg Petrosyan (Gyumri Aarhaus Center Coordinator) – In certain cases the entire river has been piped and siphoned off; for example the Yeghnajour River.

Two islands in the Shirak Arpi Reservoir that are listed in the Red Book as endemic bird nesting grounds have now been transformed into peninsulas. The reason is the large quantity of water being piped off by the hydro-plants.

In Armenia, hydro-plants are operated without taking into account the opinion of the real owners of the land and water; the citizens. There is no defined mechanism for public participation in the process.

For the most part, the various state ministries give their consent to such projects, and these projects are constructed and operated in a manner that clearly violates all normal standards.

There has yet to be a case in Armenia when an owner of an illegally operating hydro-plant is legally prosecuted.