Archive for the 'Deforestation' Category

Armenia: Private Development in National Reserve

Private development is threatening the biodiversity of one of the largest national forests in the former Soviet Union, and an oligarchic lawmaker in Armenia is said to be the violator.  

(See photos at Bnamard: Private development in Armenia’s largest reserve by a member of the ruling Republican party)

A Facebook message from a member of an Armenian environmental group informs that their group has confirmed an earlier report by that a large area of Armenia’s largest reserve, the Khosrov forest, is underway for private development.

Hetq, while writing about the uncertain state status of a neglected natural area next to the Khosrov reserve on September 8, 2008, also reported that a large acrage of the reserve has been allocated for development:

…տեղաբնակ ադրբեջանցիների կողմից ժամանակին թաղված եւ միայն վերջերս հայտնաբերված հրաշք եկեղեցու հարեւանությամբ, իրազեկ մարդկանց պնդմամբ, Աժ պատգամավոր Հովիկ Աբրահամյանը հսկա հյուրանոցային համալիրի շինարարություն է նախաձեռնել: Խոսրովի արգելոցի տնօրեն Ս. Շաբոյանը հաստատեց, որ այդ հատվածում 192 հա հող է տրվել վարձակալության, թե ու՞մ` «հստակ» չէր հիշում:…

[According to informed sources, National Parliament member Hovik Abrahamyan has organized construction for an enormous hotel [in the Khosrov resort] next to a newly-discovered church, which had been covered by soil by the former local Azeris [who left Armenia in the late 1980s due to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan]. The director of the Khosrov reserve, S. Shaboyan, confirmed that 192 acres of land have been leased out, but couldn’t “precisely” remember to who…]

Hovik Abrahamyan is a member of Armenia’s ruling Republican party and a close friend of President Serzh Sargsyan. It is rumored that Mr. Abrahamyan may soon become the Speaker of Armenia’s Parliament.

That much about “change” in the Caucasus this week.

Forestfree Armenia Can Be Avoided

Armenia Tree Project is alarming yet another government decision to eliminate a rich and unique forest in Armenia:

Teghut, with its thousands of acres of virgin forest and rich ecosystem in Northern Armenia, is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and plants, including many that are registered in the International Red Book of Endangered Species.

Armenian Copper Program (ACP), with approval from Armenia’s Ministry of Nature Protection, plans to clear-cut over 1,500 acres of Teghut’s forest in order to establish an open pit strip mining operation for copper and molybdenum ore. In addition, ACP plans to create a “tailing dump” in a nearby pristine gorge, where heavy metals and other toxins from mining waste will leach into the ground and into the river flowing through the gorge, ultimately contaminating the local water supply.

An online petition is available for your signatures.

Armenians and the Left

There are many things I would like to do this weekend, but if I had the opportunity to travel I would go to Boston to attend the “Armenians and the Left Symposium.”

Edik Baghdasaryan, editor of, Jeffrey Tufenkian, president of Armenian Forests NGO, Halil Berktay, history professor from Istanbul, and many others  will most likely generate a fascinating discussion from deforestation to Armenian-Turkish relations.

So those of you have them chance of living in or leaving for Boston, make sure to have a meaningful Saturday.

You can learn more about the symposium by visiting their website at

As an economy blossoms an ancient capital suffocates

I am behind at my work, in my classes, in updating Blogian! I don’t know why, but I am trying to catch up with everything. So my apologies for not updating Blogian for a few days. I was so out of mind that wrote a post titled “It was not genocide” referring to the UN court decision that Serbia was not guilty of genocide. As one reader pointed out, the court did not say that a genocide was not committed against Bosnian Muslims, but that the country of Serbia could not be held responsible for the actions of Serbian militias in Bosnia. These are different entities, with a reference to a new theory that not only states can violate human rights, but also non-governmental groups.

Armenian children against deforestation

via (June 2004)

Human rights violation or not, the deforestation in Armenia’s capital Yerevan is becoming more and more alarming day by day. My sister says she is unhappy that the cold is gone, because the construction has started again and it is sometimes impossible to breath in the streets. But her five-year-old daugther has been having trouble breathing during the winter too. She is young and doesn’t have the immunity to fight pollution. 🙁 Bear in mind that this climate change+construction dust just became this intolerable in the last 3.5 years, because 3.5 years ago I was in Armenia and the problem was not this tangible.

The title of this post is from an Agence France-Presse article that appeared at YahooNews several hours ago. I hope you will read this having in mind that this happens all around the world. If you care about Yerevan, maybe you should do something about it. I should take my own advice, but I don’t really know what to do at this time apart from the 9-minute film that I produced and posted at

Crazy Horse, a Native American leader, has said that we have not inherited the land from our ancestors but borrowed it from our grandchildren. We had borrowed the land for thousands of years from today’s 5-year-olds in Yerevan who have trouble breathing. Will we have 5-year-olds in 25 years who will breath at all?

As an economy blossoms an ancient capital suffocates


by Mariam HarutunianThu Mar 1, 11:10 AM ET

Waking one cold winter morning, Yerevan resident Susanna Pogosian drew back the curtains and got a shock: workmen had razed the trees opposite her home, literally overnight.

“Trees that had stood there for decades were lying on the ground. We were all in shock. It happened right in front of the eyes of the police, who didn’t lift a finger,” said Pogosian, recalling the day last month when the trees in the nearby playground were cut down.

Residents of this ex-Soviet republic are finding that after the dire economic straits they experienced in the 1990s, the runaway growth they now enjoy also has a downside: destruction of greenery and creeping desertification.

The Soviet Union’s 1991 collapse brought this country a war with neighbouring Azerbaijan and the shut-down of factories, but also the destruction of thousands of trees as energy supplies failed and people scoured the hills for fuel.

The war has since been replaced by an uneasy ceasefire and despite closed borders with both Azerbaijan and Turkey, the economy is on the rise, thanks partly to investment by emigres from Russia and the United States.

Economic growth in Armenia has averaged 10 percent annually for the last 10 years, according to the World Bank, and last year’s growth rate was 13.4 percent, according to official statistics.

But this upswing has not been matched by improved governance in the Armenian capital, where poor oversight means that the land is drying up in and around this city of some 1.2 million people.

Yerevan, famous for the pink colouring of city centre buildings, dates from before the eighth century BC and, like many Soviet urban centres, has since seen a sprawl of high-rise apartment blocks on the outskirts.

Residents take pride in the lush city centre parks and in Yerevan’s unique position, within sight of nearby Mount Ararat, a revered national symbol that actually lies in Turkey.

But now they find desert animals such as snakes and scorpions increasingly turning up in their apartment blocks located in the valley in which Yerevan was built.

Pogosian says she and others fought a legal battle to prevent the development near her house, but to no avail and the foundations are now being dug.

“A well-known businessman caught sight of the land, and wants to build a hotel complex… Eventually, as he had a permit from the ministry for nature protection, they decided to carry out their barbaric plans at night,” she said.

Ecologist Karine Danielian, of Yerevan’s State University, says the city has lost 12 percent of its green space in recent years.

“Big businesses have built on any large or small space between buildings,” said Danielian.

“The capital is reverting to semi-desert with all the climatic characteristics, flora and fauna that implies…. The tall buildings appearing in the centre reduce air circulation. The city is being suffocated,” she said.

The head of the city’s environmental protection department, Avet Martirosian, says he is concerned by the loss of green space and developers are now required to plant additional trees and grass when they build.

City authorities also plan an ambitious “re-greening” programme.

This will include planting 50,000 trees and 30,000 shrubs, with special attention paid to restoring vines and creepers that once covered many buildings, shielding them from noise, dust and the sun, says Martirosian.

He says 150,000 dollars (114,000 euros) has been allocated to growing saplings at a nearby nursery, including varieties that can cope with pollution.

Under the plans, the amount of green territory in the city will increase by 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres) by 2020, he says.

This does not satisfy ecologists or sceptical local residents in a country where corruption and poor governance are serious problems however.

Danielian says that the new saplings will be no replacement for the mature trees that are being lost. “Why should we repeat the mistakes other cities have made?” she queried.

Local resident Aik Bersegian, a 60-year-old mechanic, is also distrustful: “These plans only exist on paper. The authorities adopted a law on protecting the environment but themselves don’t respect it. It’s happening in front of our eyes.”



Satellite Armenia: Military or Cultural Security?

We have a unique opportunity to document the Armenian culture and material history before it is completely wiped out in Turkey and in Azerbaijan. This would cost about 1 million dollars, but I highly hope rich Armenian foundations will realize the importance of such a project. In terms of fully satellizing the destruction of the Djulfa cemetery, it would only require about $3,000.

Although having access to American satellites, NATO member Turkey has decided to lunch an 80-centimeter-resolution satellite into the orbit by 2011. According to The Space Review (“Turkey’s military satellite program: a model for emerging regional powers”), “Space-based observation is one important way that they can keep track of activities in places like Armenia” and other places.

In fact it was due to the genocide that Turkey committed against Armenia and the crime’s acknowledgement by the French government that delayed the process of satellitizing Turkey’s military espionage in the region. Back in 2001, “The Turkish Defense Ministry canceled a contract to purchase a US$259 million high-resolution Earth observation satellite from Alcatel Space in retaliation for the French parliament’s vote to condemn the Turkish killings of Armenians in the early 1900s.” An Israeli corporation, according to Space and Tech, was supposed to benefit from the Turkish angriness, but it remains a question why Turkey still wants to lunch its own satellite. Why Israel? According to the report, the Jewish state doesn’t mind doing business on spy satellites: ”Israel seems to be willing to sell spy satellites to other countries. Reports about negotiations with Singapore have appeared in the Singapore and Malaysian press.” Why not Turkey then?

The government-owned Turksat already has several broadcast satellites for promoting “cultural, economic, and political influence” from Turkey to Central Asia – the area that many Turkish nationalists have hoped to unite in a Pan-Turkish empire.

The report says the Turkish military plans to spend 200 million dollars on the project. Turkish personnel have been training in Torrejon, Spain for satellite interpretation and technology. The military satellite will be used for “taking pictures of nations that directly border on Turkey.” According to the Turkish Press, November 17, 2006, was the deadline for “bidding in the tender for Turkey’s first military-purpose satellite project.”

But Turkey has already started documenting its neighbors. It “is already buying imagery from commercial sources” – that are available to everyone for the same price.

The report about Turkey’s satellite ambitions came three weeks after I purchased a 2003 satellite image of Nakhichevan’s (part of the Republic of Azerbaijan) Julfa’s (Culfa, Jugha) region’s western portion – that shows the ancient Armenian cemetery (now destroyed), the village Gulustan, several other monuments such as caravanserais, churches, and a historic Mulsim tomb.

I purchased the image from Digital Globe. Since then I have been wondering whether the Armenian government owns this available-to-everyone satellite images of the region. It would cost Armenia about 1 million dollars to get Digital Globe’s entire coverage of the Armenian Republic and the Republics of Azerbaijan and Turkey, at least the immediate bordering areas.

If you are wondering about the image posted above, it is the September 2003 inverted satellite image of now-gone Djulfa cemetery. Although I have no expertise or training in satellite interpretation, there are still many conclusions that can be made from that image without having professional background:

1. The cemetery was over 70% intact in September of 2003, even after the deliberate acts of official vandalisms in 1998 and 2002 that UNESCO had ordered to stop.

2. The 1998 and 2002 vandalisms were done by heavy technology – the entire level of the soil was scrapped off. The darker side is the most recent and the deepest scrap. This could not have been done by a group of hooligans. This was not done in a search for treasure.

3. The scrapped trace proves the intent of totally wiping out the cemetery even before 2005. A very thick level of the soil had been removed. Hundreds of skeletons must have been exhumed in this process and destroyed.
4. Although it is not too clear – but if it is zoomed in and studied closely it can be noticed that most, if not all, headstones (khachkars) were pushed down to the ground and none were standing in Sept. of 2003. This may have been done either in 1998 or 2003, as a first step of destroying the headstones. In fact, if you compare a December 2005 photograph with the Sept 2003 satellite image you will notice that in both places the khachkars were laying down on the ground instead of standing in their regular positions.

I do have many other images of the surrounding area, but would like to keep them for sharing on possible future presentations about the vandalism. All the images are from the big file that I got from Digital Globe.

The negative aspects of Digital Globe satellite imagery are that these areas are taken on different dates and times. Thus, “coverage” of the region could have been from 2002-2006, and many things might have changed in the meantime. Another problem would be getting detailed imagery. Digital Globe does not provide 80-cm imagery, as the one that Turkey aspires. But even so, the satellite images will provide much information. In fact, Azerbaijan is aware of what I am talking about. When this hostile neighbor accused Armenia of deliberately “burning forests,” they immediately provided several satellite images of the area with different dates of download (these images are available here).


How did Azerbaijan get this imagery (that didn’t really “prove” anything other than that the forests were really destroyed due to a fire)? Digital Globe, as far as I know, would not have been able to provide information that fast. In fact, it takes them up to 60 days to download a current image of an area. So, Azerbaijan either used U.S. technology with the help of its ally and NATO-member Turkey, or has another secret access to satellite imagery, OR, there is another simple access to such images that Armenia is not even aware of. The images say “Space image,” but my Google search did not provide such a copyright holder. I doubt that Azerbaijan has its own satellite in the orbit, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had one very soon.

The text released by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry gives confusing details about the satellite imagery they obtained. According to the statement, the satellite imagery show that “[o]n the 132,2 square km area a number of towns, villages, agricultural lands, cultural and historical monuments, existing flora and fauna, living dwellings have been destroyed or burnt by the fire.” Interestingly, the statement also mentions the possibility that the fires “are nature-caused,” yet it holds Armenia accountable and says “these actions by Armenia constitute a gross violation of international humanitarian law.”

I have discussed it earlier that there is no reason that Armenia would have burnt forests. But an Azerbaijani blog says that the fire was deliberately done “perhaps in an attempt [to] clear land mines at the perimeter of the disputed area.” This wouldn’t make sense either, because there are no people living in these areas, and, as far as I understand, Armenia is planning to give up the particular territory to the Azerbaijanis in the future peace deal. Nor does Nagorno Karabakh President’s assertion – that Azerbaijanis have shot fire starting balls to the forests to blame the Armenians – make sense. Again, I don’t think any side would have deliberately started destruction of forests – although both Armenian and Azerbaijani governments are infamous for environmental degradation in their countries. Though, wait a minute, I may have double thoughts about Azerbaijan on this… I mean, it would be totally “worth” to cause forests fire in Karabakh to blame on Armenia in Azeri officials’ eyes, to balance the pressure on Azerbaijan for destroying the Djulfa cemetery. But, no, I don’t think they are that sick. What if ones of those mines blew up and started the fire? In any case, I think had the conflict was solved earlier the forest fire would have not been so widened in the area. Now let’s get back to satellite wars.

I wonder whether the Armenian government knows that satellite images can be purchased. By didn’t the foreign ministry purchase satellite images of the Djulfa cemetery before and after the destruction? As I already mentioned, I purchased the before image for “The New Tears of Araxes,” but I haven’t found a sponsor to help purchase a current satellite image that would cost between $1,200 and $2,000. It would cost only $1,500 years to have a final documentation of the vandalism, but interested parties are either not genuinely interested or don’t know they can do this.

After all, sometimes satellite images are not helpful at all. Look at the satellite image of Iran’s Embassy in Armenia.

Would you be able to figure out from this that a small Armenian Nazi group (the “Armenian Aryans”) gets financial support from this building?

In fact, not really having much hope for the current Armenian government, I hope an Armenian organization (a library, museum, etc.) in America will find ways to document historic Armenia in satellites (and then perhaps share the info with the Armenian government). We have a unique opportunity to document the Armenian culture and material history before it is completely wiped out in Turkey and in Azerbaijan. This would cost about 1 million dollars, but I highly hope rich Armenian foundations will realize the importance of such a project. But first we need people who would be interested to communicating and organizing all these. An Armenian Research Center at a U.S. university sounds the best option here. One non-Armenian university professor, according to the CNN, has already purchased many photos of Mount Ararat with the ambition to find Noah’s ark.

Finding Noah’s ark would not be the next cool thing after documenting the Armenian monuments. The non-Armenian monuments of historic Armenia should also be documented. If Armenia ever ends up liberating more historic lands, these monuments must be preserved, and we need to document them today so that we take care of them tomorrow. I don’t want the non-ingenious people of historic Armenia (the Turkic-Mongoloid peoples) die and disappear, but history shows that, in the long-run, Armenians end up staying in their homeland, while the newcomers continue their journey.

djulfa-gulustan-tomb.gif The Muslim tomb Gulustan (middle ages) not too far from now-gone Djulfa

More realistically, this (80 million Turks leaving the region) will not happen, but future liberation of Nakhichevan – the region that Stalin gave to Azerbaijan and the region where the Djulfa cemetery was wiped out along with thousands of other ancient Armenian monuments – is realistic, so even though all of the Armenian culture has been wiped out there, we should document the Muslim culture to preserve it in the future.

khorvirap_tonir.JPG Tonirtrash

Speaking of preserving culture, let’s talk about our own. A Blogian reader from the Czech Republic has visited Armenia lately and got shocked after seeing the treatment of the Armenian monuments in Armenia. He sent us a photo of a tonir (the well where the traditional Armenian bread – lavash – is made) from one of Armenia’s most ancient monasteries – Khor Virap, where Grigor Lusavorish (Krikor the Illuminator) was imprisoned for many years before he converted Armenia to Christianity in 301 A.D. The tonir in the sacred site has been used by a garbage bin by visitors.

A local Armenian would blame the government – or whoever is in charge of taking care the historic monastery – for not putting trashcans in the area. But I think it also has to do with the visitors. For one reason, I can almost swear that no Diasporan Armenian would have thrown trash into the tonir. Has to do a lot with “dastiarakutyun” (the English term doesn’t come to mind); has to do a lot how people are taught about this world. There is lots of chances that even if the monastery was overpacked by trashcans people would still throw garbage into the tonir.

I visited Mother Cabrini’s shrine in Colorado last year. The sacred Catholic site had a sacred water fountain where people say water was found by God’s guidance. There were free plastic cups to drink the water and, as you can imagine, dozens of trashcans all over the place. When I tried to put a small donation in the huge can next to the water fountain, I saw used plastic cups smashed in it that blocked from putting the money in. Why would they do that? Well, perhaps they did not understand the “donation” sign, because most people who go there are Hispanics and perhaps don’t speak English. But hey, what has happened to the thing called common sense? I guess the mere presence of trashcans is not the final and complete solution.

khorvirap_wall.jpg (Khor Virap by Andy Abrahamian)

Well, let’s blame the absence of trashcans for the tonirtrash in Khor Virap, but what about the graffiti on the same monastery done by Armenians? Oh, these are done by unholy communists who hated the Armenian Church. Well, what about the 2005 Alphabet statues? Why is there graffiti on them too?

new-statues.jpg (the alphabet from