Most hydro plants in Armenia fail to provide sustainable environmental outflows, says environmentalist
Telia Mining Ltd. has started construction on a mini-hydroelectric plant in Armenia’s Syunik Province even though it has yet to receive a water usage permit from the country’s Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC).
The company, founded in 2012, was owned until 2015 by Misak Hovsepyan, the son of Aghvan Hovsepyan (a former Prosecutor General of Armenia and now the president of the Investigative Committee).
The company wants to build the hydro plant along a section of the Geghi River that falls within the boundaries of the Nor Astghaberd and Geghi communities.
Nor Astghaberd Mayor Sourik Tevanyan told Hetq that company representatives showed up with documents and that preliminary blueprints for the location of the plant are being drawn up. Accepted practice is that the contractor must first meet with the community leader to receive a draft permit. Afterwards, the company drawing up the plan then must submit blueprints to the community head for final approval prior to ant construction work.
Mayor Tevanyan says he doesn’t believe the company has committed any violation by leveling the road before a construction permit has been granted. He says the company needed to do so to haul in material.
Vasil Grigoryan, the mayor of Geghi, says that he issued a construction permit to the company months ago.
The 1,700-millimeter water pipes will stretch for five kilometers. The pipes are so big that cows have been photographed lounging inside, away from the afternoon heat.
Armen Parsadanyan, who heads the Kapan’s Sustainable Development NGO, says the Geghi River is already over utilized by another hydro plant built along its banks by a company called EremirEnergy Ltd.
Parsadanyan says that most hydro plants operating in Armenia don’t allow for adequate environmental outflows to sustain the ecosystem of the river they’re built on.
He argues that since governmental monitoring of hydro plants is weak in Armenia, companies that have made huge expenditures in the sector will be tempted to seek faster returns on investment by using more water than permitted sustainable levels.
Trout, a good indicator of a river’s purity, once thrived in Geghi River. Nothing lives in the river today.
Levon Galstyan, a member of the Armenian Environmental Front, says that most rivers in Armenia have normal flows between March and June. It’s possible to tap into the larger rivers to generate power during those four months, he says, without any negative impact to the environment. Using the rivers during the rest of the year, when their flows have decreased, will just destroy their ecosystems and the surrounding environment.
Galstyan adds that the government’s specified outflow levels for hydro plants are meaningless since they are mere mathematical calculations based on an average of a given river’s lowest flow. No ecological factors are considered in the equation, he says.
Galstyan says that for the past five years the Front has been pressing for the installation of cameras at all hydro plants in Armenia, so that government monitors and residents can go online and see the state of specific rivers at any time.
No one in government seems interested.