Vahe Sarukhanyan

NGO’s Sue Ministry of Nature Protection

Dolphinarium Must Undergo an Environmental Impact Study Two Armenian NGO’s, the Bird Lovers’ Center and Ecotar, have filed a legal suit against the RA Ministry of Nature Protection. The plaintiffs argue that the Ministry has yet to conduct an environmental impact study of the recently opened Dolphinarium (an aquarium attraction) in Yerevan. Back in September of last year, local environmentalists raised the issue with the Ministry and were told that the Dolphinarium’s management had yet to present construction documents to the Ministry nor had it applied for an impact study to be conducted. Soon afterwards, the Ministry offered a similar response when questioned by Heritage Party MP Stepan Safaryan. In the Ministry’s response, it states that “the planned for dolphinarium must undergo such an environmental impact study according to RA law and that the Ministry will declare its position of said construction once the study findings are made.” What is interesting is that while the Ministry cites Armenian law in regards to the dolphinarium, it conveniently forgets another article of the same law stipulating that, “any activity that is subject to an environmental impact study cannot be realized without a positive result of said study.” When the dolphin attraction officially opened on December 24, 2010, these legal requirements had not been fulfilled. On that same day, the environmentalists sent another letter to the Ministry. They received the following shocking answer. “To date, construction documents for the dolphinarium in Komitas Park have yet to be presented for an environmental study. The dimension of the operating structure, according to our measurements, is 1,256 square meters.” One can conclude from this response that Ministry employees had been sitting on their hands the whole time rather than taking steps during the preliminary construction phase to see to it that the builders handed over the appropriate documents. In their suit, the environmentalists also point out that according to the former laws, those enterprises, buildings, structures, etc., surpassing 1,000 square meters in size were subject to an environmental impact study. While the law was upgraded to 1,500 square meters on December 23, 2010, the old requirements were in force during the actual construction of the dolphinarium. The plaintiffs also point out that the environmental impact study law stipulates that such an examination must be made for the importation of animal and plant species. The plaintiffs also contend that the Ministry has violated provisions of the RA Constitution and the UNECE’s Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, usually known as the Aarhus Convention. The NGO’s are demanding that the Ministry be obligated to conduct an environmental impact study as stipulated by the law. Silva Adamyan, President of the Bird Lovers’ Society and a leading member of the SOS Dolphins coalition, says they are still waiting to see if the court will hear their case.