Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan conducted a visit to the Ministry of Nature Protection to get acquainted with the activities and priorities accomplished in 2017, as well as the tasks set for 2018.
Minister Artsvik Minasyan reported that 21 activities envisaged by 2017 Government Program had been accomplished within the defined timeframes. 17 of them have already been given a corresponding government decree, 4 projects are under discussion. Seven out of nine priority actions have been fulfilled within the defined timeframes, and government draft decrees have been prepared for the remaining two projects.
In the period under review 52 legal acts, developed by the Ministry, were adopted in accordance with the established procedure. The volume of electronically processed documents increased from 41.6% to 60% in 2017 as compared to the same period last year. The issuance deadline of water usage permits was reduced from 180 to 50 days.
Artsvik Minasyan presented the outputs of the surface water facility and atmosphere quality monitoring realized in 2017. The water quality of Lake Sevan has not undergone significant changes, and a serious achievement has been achieved - transparency has reached the mark of 13meters: such an indicator was typical in the Soviet era before the water release arrangement. Risky indicators have been registered in some areas.
Prime Minister Karapetyan underscored that if the results of the monitoring seem to be alarming, the Ministry should undertake relevant actions to change the situation.
“We should clearly define the sequence of steps to ensure that the monitoring is not an end in itself. Any monitoring is initiated with a view to changing something”: the Head of Government stressed and instructed the Minister of Nature Protection to provide information on the activities implemented in the period from 2014 to 2017.
First Deputy Minister of Nature Protection Erik Grigoryan reported on international cooperation in the field of environmental protection, grants and EU-Armenia cooperation in 2017. Over USD 20 million-worth grant contracts have been signed with the Green Climate Fund, 22 environmental conventions and protocols are being implemented, of which 8 are regularly reported under the GSP+ Tracking Survey.
Negotiations are underway with the German KfW Bank on a grant of € 21.7 million for Biodiversity Conservation and Forestry Program, and a USD 28 million grant with FAO. 32 communities have been supported under “Developing the Protected Area System of Armenia” project; a program is being implemented to direct grant funds to the budget; efforts are underway to approximate dozens of environmental and climate settings for Armenia within 8 years following the entry into force of the EU-Armenia Association Agreement.
Highlighting the efficiency and targeting of grant spending, Karen Karapetyan emphasized that each project, including grants, should lead to applied results. He instructed to take stock of all existing and potential partners providing grants and work on developing targeted cooperation.
Deputy Minister Khachik Hakobyan presented the current trends in ecotourism and the activities scheduled for 2018. It was reported that in 2017, 549, 128 tourists visited specially protected areas of nature (492,244 in 2016), as a result of which 226.77 million drams were received (179.40 million in 2016). An ecotourism information stand has been set up in State Museum of Nature of Armenia which is supposed to host tourists in 2018.
The Head of Government noted that in terms of tourism development, one should aim more ambitious and achieve more serious indicators, given the existing potential. In this context, Prime Minister Karapetyan instructed the Ministry to continue working on development and reform strategy of “Sevan National Park” as well as to submit the Development Program of “Khosrov Forest” state reserve.
Khachik Hakobyan next provided information on the situation and developments of water resources in Ararat Valley: in 2017, one deep well was liquidated, 16 were conserved, and 150 wells were brought into the valve regime, resulting in savings of up to 4952 liters per second, which makes 156 million cubic meters per annum. 23% efficiency was recorded in the fishery sector alone.
The Prime Minister was also informed about the process of forest sector reforms and the structural changes in “ArmForest” SNCO. Karen Karapetyan stated that the SNCOs operating under the Ministry’s jurisdiction should have a business component and provide profitability in addition to their statutory functions.
“Each SNCO Director should have set a pre-determined horizon. If they have the opportunity and potential to occupy a market niche, we will surely tell them which way to go”: the Head of Government said.
Coming to the planned reform in “ArmForest” SNCO, the Premier stated in part: “We are firmly determined to make of “ArmForest” a profitable and powerful public structure ruling out any breach of environmental norms.”