2019 July 18
News & Anti-Corruption in Armenia - Jul/18/2019: Ijevan forests; Protests; Nature Ministry .... Sevan Lake ...... Anti-corruption and Crime ..... Stadium in Yerevan ..... Property & Tourism Stats ..... More Stories ->
Disclaimer: All the accused are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law, even if they may sound as being guilty. Currency in Armenian Drams unless specified otherwise.
Area 51: (nothing intensifies)
Ijevan: Clashes took place in Ijevan yesterday. Ijevan authorities had earlier prevented a group of men from entering the forest to collect trees. The group that tried to smuggle the trees shut down the road connecting to Georgia, as a sign of protest. The authorities accused them of deforestation, lack of documentation, and refused to allow them to collect the trees. The group said they do it to make a living, and that they unfairly pay more fees to collect trees than others in nearby regions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckrVEg0iICc
Later, the protest involving 500 people escalated into clashes. Loggers used sticks and rocks to hit the policemen. 13 policemen and 1 protester were injured. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/166508
Large number of police forces were brought. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/166529
13 participants were arrested and 6 were told not to leave the country. They are facing assault and hooliganism charges https://armtimes.com/hy/article/166532
Loggers demanded the fees to be reduced on legal logging. The governor appears to have agreed on that. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/166524
Loggers also demanded the police to stop conducting searches against illegal logging. This demand, however, was not satisfied. The police has checkpoints where they stop cars that transport trees and demand documents.
Last year the government increased the fight against illegal deforestation. Dozens of officials were charged with aiding the crime. Ijevan is near a large forest and is a lucrative place for illegal logging. https://armtimes.com/hy/article/166549
During a government session, Pashinyan said the government will not tolerate illegal deforestation and the ultimatums by the organizers of the clashes. He said there is a small circle of businesses that benefit from the deforestation.
The Nature Ministry is working on creating a production of pellets and briquettes factories in Armenia that can serve as alternative to burning wood, so deforestation will be discouraged.
To the complaints by loggers about making a living, the Minister of Infrastructure responded saying that they offered them 200 jobs with the avg 350k salary, but they refused to accept them, giving the law enforcement an ultimatum instead. Minister Papikyan says the job offer is still on the table.
Police spokesman says they know which businesses are behind the illegal logging. He said people are paid to cut the trees for those businesses. "The NSS is investigating."
Minister of Nature said illegal logging is a $40-million/year business. Up to 1mln m3 illegal trees are cut annually, while people are authorized to cut only 17,000 m3.
In past, you could receive a permit to enter the forest and collect a certain amount of fallen trees. People would take advantage and spend months in the forest by reusing the same expired permit. Last year the Pashinyan administration tightened the rules and installed check-points to catch illegal tree cutters. The reuse of these permits is harder now.
Minister said there is a program for residents who live near the forest, that gives them a free permit to collect fallen trees for free. These clashes were organized by the businesses that benefit from illegal cutting, Minister thinks.
He says the forest protection law will be changed soon. Second illegal logging instance will become a felony. The proposed law also, for the first time, regulates the transfer of the illegally cut trees. The old law was only about cutting the trees.
Minister said that in past, people who ran an illegal logging business also had influence over the legislative, which is why illegall logging was an organized underground network.
He says thaton paper it appears that the instances of illegal logging has dramatically increased since last year, but in reality it's decreasing due to a real fight against it. They no longer falsify the number of detected deforestation cases. Instead of thousands of trees per year, it's now in dozens of thousands that is being recorded.
NSS chief Vanetsyan was at the scene. He suggested the government to provide a service in which certified government workers can enter the forest and collect the naturally fallen trees, then hand it over to loggers. "This could prevent illegal cuts". He said Ijevan's forests are better to be used as tourist spots rather than a burning material. He said they'll find the organizers of yesterday's violent clashes.
During today's government session the ministers spoke about SevanLake.
Nature Minister says the water quality continues to improve and it's safe for swimming. "People can swim, but can't litter", added Pashinyan.
Minister said the priority now is to clean it up from trees, raise water levels, prevent crap from pouring-in.
EU has provided a €5 million grant to install 3 water purification facilitates on the shores near Martuni, Gavar and Vardenis. http://arka.am/en/news/society/armenia_to_receive_5_million_grant_for_deploying_depuration_facilities_on_lake_sevan_/
There is also a climate change issue that affected not only Sevan but other lakes around the world. This year, 100mln m3 more water evaporated in Armenia due to high temperatures, and 40mln m3 less rain fell, causing a 140mln m3 less water for Sevan.
This year, the artificial water drainage was 36mln m3 lower than last year, which helped to prevent further loss.
Nature Minister: any building at the shores of Sevan that is below the 1905 meter mark, was built illegally and needs to be removed.
4,800 such illegal structures, including many dachas, have been identified and submitted to PM's office. This affects 500 hectares of lands. Some of it is businesses who leased an area then illegally expanded it.
Ministry of Emergency wants to hire divers to prevent drowning incidents in Sevan. Salary+bonuses is 200k/month with 3 days per week schedule. 3 people were saved from drowning this year.
Changes were made to service cars for 16 various ministry-linked inspector institutions to regulate the number of cars they have. Each department can have one car to transport officials, while the dozens of other cars should be used for work sight visits.
Food inspectors examined the cottage cheese and butter sold by DAEGA company to 7 kindergartens and child centers, and found that the ingredients were low quality and different than what was purchased. The company is set to receive a fine.
Armavir anti-corruption stats 1H19 vs 1H18. 35% more corruption cases investigated. Twice as many officials found guilty in the court.
The Justice Ministry wants to fight against the criminal thieve-in-law (vor v zakone) culture a-la Georgia style. They want to pass a law, based on ECHR and post-Soviet practice, to criminalize the creation or participation in "criminal circles".
Artashat municipality has confiscated 34mln from a private clinic, and 1.7mln from a former BHK MP Karo Karapetyan business, for not paying taxes and causing financial damages.
A delegation was sent to US by the Ministry of Sports. They negotiated with an American business to invest $300 million to create the new modern stadium in Armenia that HFF chief Arthur Vanetsyan has been talking about.
It'll hold 40,000 seats and will have the highest class-4 UEFA rating. Because they plan to hold international games in it, it has to be inside Yerevan. Earlier they planned to build it outside, near a highway.
The Constitutional Court has temporarily suspended the pending Kocharyan case that it is supposed to hear in August. They sent a letter to ECHR and Venice Commission to ask for an advice whether the challenged Law 300.1 is Constitutional or not. This is the first time the Constitution Court does this.
The number of property transactions rose by 24% in 2Q19 vs 1Q19, and by 17% vs 2Q18. Yerevan land prices up 10% compared to last period.
The government will spend 90mln on targeted tourism ad campaigns in Russia, Georgia and China. In China, they plan to use WeChat and other methods to advertise the new visa-free travel.
47% of the foreigner tourists had Russian passports. Number of Chinese tourists rose by 53% (total number still small). German tourists rose significantly, but no number is given. Japanese tourists rose 22%. Overall there is a rising trend of more foreigners visiting Armenia.
Link to original report: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/cexp12/news_anticorruption_in_armenia_jul182019_ijevan/
|2018 Daily Armenia Reports|
|2019 Daily Armenia Reports|