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Knowing what is happening with our environment to better protect it

Published: 02 December 2003

UNECE helps Armenia to publish its long-awaited State-of-the-Environment Report

Air pollution in Armenia is 70% lower on the whole than in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, this has more to do with recession and emigration than with environmental protection. Moreover, in the capital, Erevan, environmentally sound trams and trolleybuses have increasingly lost ground to small shuttle buses and private cars, most of which are at least 15 years old. As a result, exhaust fumes are a constant health hazard. Air pollution from dirty fuels used for home heating is also a problem.

Yet air pollution is only one of the many concerns raised in Armenia's new State-of-the-Environment Report, published in Armenian and Russian in Erevan this week. According to the Report, river quality is declining too, mainly downstream from big cities. It is feared that, when the economy picks up again, water quality will be further compromised as Armenia's 20 waste-water treatment plants have either ceased to operate or are obsolete. The quality of drinking water is poor and has on occasion led to outbreaks of disease. Supply is in any case erratic and often limited to 2 to 6 hours a day. Only 55% of homes in urban areas and 20% of homes in rural areas are connected to sewage systems. Armenia suffers from soil erosion too. Up to 82% of the country is affected by desertification to some degree, mainly as a result of uncontrolled mining, logging and overgrazing. Illegal landfilling is widespread and soil pollution is a real problem.

Armenia's State-of-the-Environment Report follows the Guidelines for the Preparation of Governmental Reports on the State and Protection of the Environment issued by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and adopted at the Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" in Kiev in May 2003. It evaluates environmental quality, identifies "hot spots", analyses pressures on the environment and natural resources, and assesses the effectiveness of environmental protection measures. It also helps Armenia comply with its obligations under the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention). The publication of the Report was made possible thanks to close cooperation with UNECE and financial assistance from the European Commission.

It is the second comprehensive report on the environment since Armenia became independent 12 years ago. Many local experts and experts from UNECE and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) contributed to it. The Report is also the result of a series of activities on environmental indicators, the use of modern information technologies for environmental networking and reporting, and monitoring of emissions and waste, launched by UNECE in close cooperation with the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, to strengthen the capacity of UNECE member States in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia in environmental assessment and reporting.

"Up-to-date information on the state of the environment and natural resources is vital to ensure that the limited funds that are available for environmental protection are spent on the top priorities," says Kaj Bärlund, UNECE Environment Director. "Since the publication by UNECE of its Environmental Performance Review of Armenia in 2000, Armenia has made much progress. It has adopted eight laws to improve the protection of Lake Sevan, to strengthen compliance with environmental legislation and to promote environmental education. It has ratified the UNECE Aarhus Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Last May it also signed three new UNECE protocols on pollution release and transfer registers, liability for environmental damage, and strategic environmental assessment. Armenia has come a long way in strengthening its environmental institutions and management. The publication of this Report is another step in the direction of sustainable development. Yet more still needs to be done to boost funding for environmental protection, establish up-to-date environmental norms and standards that are compatible with international practices, and promote the use of economic instruments in environmental policy."

For more information, please contact:

Kaj Bärlund

UNECE Environment and Human Settlements Division
Palais des Nations
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Phone: + 41 (0) 22 917 23 70
Fax: + 41 (0) 22 917 01 07
E-mail: kaj.barlund@unece.org

Mikhail Kokine

UNECE Environment and Human Settlements Division
Palais des Nations
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Phone: + 41 (0) 22 917 23 47
Fax: + 41 (0) 22 917 06 30
E-mail: mikhail.kokine@unece.org

Web site: http://www.unece.org/env/europe/monitoring/

Ref: ECE/ENV/03/P25

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Palais des Nations, 

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44

Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05