Nikol Pashinyan: "A Delayed Action Bomb is Set in two Environmental Areas that Needs to be Stopped"
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a consultation to discuss and find ways of addressing challenges in the sphere of forestry management. The Premier noted that illegal logging has been a common practice for many decades now, and a large group of specialized people are engaged in that field.
"It appears to be clear that specific welfare bottlenecks are being tackled this way. Unfortunately, alternative employment has not been offered to the residents of forest-rich regions for a long time, and sometimes it was simply inexistent. I believe that things have changed over time in a way that we can often see people cut down trees just because there is a forest nearby which can be used as a merchandise in order to get income. They are unaware of the strategic consequences of this process, and sometimes it is not even considered and discussed.
We have had several discussions on this subject recently, and the following two tasks were identified: Firstly, we need to implement a policy conducive to normal forestry development; secondly, we must provide jobs in forest-rich settlements in order to help people solve the problem of employment, especially as today we can witness increased tourist flows to our forested regions.
We should invite our fellow countrymen for an in-depth discussion because every time we cut down a tree full of life, we are causing great damage to the environment, our country’s economic development, including the prosperous future of its inhabitants. The problem is not that simple indeed, but the political record should be consistent with the solution of this problem," Nikol Pashinyan underscored.
Reporting on the current status of forests in Armenia, the responsible officials came up with proposals and recommendations. In particular, the possibility of providing for 24-hour monitoring in forests was considered in order to prevent the State from suffering large losses every year due to illegal logging.
28 thousand trees were illegally cut in 2017-2018 alone, leading to a damage of AMD 2.2 billion. The importance of coordinated, interrelated and effective activities of relevant agencies, as well as the need for implementing socio-economic activities in the provinces was stressed during the meeting.
It was reported that various grant programs for forestry communities, establishment of greenhouses, provision of citizens with income sources, development of ecotourism and other directions have already been approved. It was also mentioned that the issue of submitting legislative initiatives for toughening the responsibility for illegal logging is currently under discussion.
In this context, the Prime Minister emphasized the importance of showing political will: "Every time specific action was needed, it would turn out that, for instance, upcoming elections or something else could be an impediment. I do believe that the situation has changed in that respect and, as the classic has put it, we should think about the next generations rather than about future elections. Time has come and we must address all of these problems seriously and radically, because our country’s ecological situation is bad.
We have been stating this for a long time now, but nothing has changed so far. Of course, we should be able to start a dialogue with our compatriots. The problem here is not only in poor administration, but also in the lack of a general content acceptable to everyone.
As a native of Tavush Marz, I know that nowadays people understand that even the most ill-favored village can become a tourist hub and realize that this way of old thinking is obsolete. Political will is badly needed in this matter. We must understand that there is no room to take a step back here, and we must solve this issue once and for all. Our government has the mission of making real changes instead of imitating a change, and we must engage in active dialogue with the population in order to push ahead with this agenda," Nikol Pashinyan said, highlighting the concentration of forestry monitoring functions in a single agency.
The Head of Government instructed the responsible officials to rule out the felling of healthy trees for industrial purposes, ensure strict control over the roads, keep the legality of getting raw materials in sawdust, clarify the origin of timber used by companies engaged in furniture industry and so on.
"In other words, we should have imported timber in this sphere, because industrial logging is not allowed in Armenia. If timber is not imported, then we have a problem that should be tackled," the Prime Minister emphasized.
Nikol Pashinyan instructed to set up an expert task force to discuss the alternative energy opportunities, including the pellet production program, as well as to assess its economic efficiency and prospects. The problem of poaching was also touched upon during the meeting.
"We must state that the same logic goes in the case of illegal hunting. Here, too, we have to deal seriously because wildlife is in serious danger. The mechanisms are the same: there is no "hidden hunting," hunting is mainly used for commercial purposes and should be ruled out at any cost. A delayed-action bomb has been triggered in the above two environmental areas, which needs to be stopped," Nikol Pashinyan emphasized.
In conclusion, the Prime Minister told the responsible persons to carry out monitoring in the near future in order to see what has changed following today’s decisions.
"We must go forward with clear-cut and confident steps. It is also important to engage in dialogue with the public at large, explain the reasons behind what we are doing, because it seems to be obvious that the common interest is at stake here. We must cut it short with those advocating "mafia interests," while a substantiated dialogue is to be initiated on the furtherance of public interests in order to foster an atmosphere of cooperation in the country," - the Prime Minister said.
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