Lake Sevan

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Gegharkunik Marz

Hayravank Monastery, above the shores of Lake Sevan.

This huge mountain lake which takes up 5% of Armenia's surface area and is about 2,000 meters above sea level. On a clear and sunny day, the water is often a deep turquoise color. Maxim Gorky once said about the waters that they were like a piece of the sky that had descended to the earth among the mountains. The shores are white sand and most beaches are uncrowded. The monastery peninsula (called the island in Armenian) is the most popular spot, and is the closest place to visit as well. The water is about 18-22 Celsius in the summer, a very refreshing swim after a hot week in Yerevan. It is a freshwater lake, so you do not have any salt residue after swimming. There are fish in the lake, however there has been a ban on commercial fishing (without authorization) in recent years. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see men standing along the main road signaling cars by hand the supposed length of the fish they sell. To put these fish on display would mean calling the attention of unwanted authorities.

Locals have told visitors that the name Sevan comes from many centuries ago during a cold winter when one of the frequent invasions by Arabs was imminent. The villagers warned one another and proceeded across the ice of Sevan to the (then) island on which Sevanavank was located. Once everyone was across they barracaded themselves in the church and prayed that their lives be spared. As the Arabs approached the ice they too crossed, but once they were well on their way across it, the ice gave and the invaders drown in the icy waters. The villagers viewed this as an act of God, sparing them from sure death. The lake was black with bodies of the dead soldiers so they named it Sevan (Sev meaning "black" in Armenian).

On the peninsula there is the monastery of Sevanavank, consisting of two rather rough churches. It is worthwhile to climb up the many stairs for the view and the green khatchkars. They were carved from a plentiful local green stone and stood out from the others which are all made of tuff. All over the West and North shores are places to stay. On of the nicer (normal) ones is the Sevan Hotel at the very north end, just past the massive remains of an unfinished Soviet construction. The Harsna Kar luxury resort is located a few hundred meters from the Peninsula as well. On the East shore is the painters house at the tip of the opposite penninsula near Shorjha, and just south of that is probably the nicest beach on the lake. Kilometers long, nice waters, and some pine trees for shade behind them. It is perfect for camping or getting away from the crowd on the West shores. (About 40 minutes of extra driving down from the north, very bad road if you drive up from the south) If you go down the western shore you will reach Hayravank Monastery, a nicer monastery which very few visit. A bit further lays Noratus with a nice old church, and old basilica ruins, and more importantly the largest khachkar cemetery in Armenia. Continuing south towards Vardenis you will hit the nice sites of Ddmashen Church, Vanevan Monastery and Makenyats Monastery.


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Free Beaches Offered at Armenia's Lake

08.07.2011 Elina Chilingarian

The Armenian government has announced the launch of two public beaches at a mountain lake popular among local holidaymakers. People traveling to the Sevan, a rare beach resort in landlocked Armenia, are now offered areas at the lakeside where they can swim or have a picnic without having to pay an entry fee or being additionally charged for most of public amenities.

The move comes after the government pledge to reduce the growing commercialization of rest at Lake Sevan that makes it unaffordable for most citizens struggling to find other beach options during hot Armenian summers.

Ashot Avalian, an Environment Ministry official in charge of the coordination of public beaches, said at a press conference in Yerevan on Friday that in choosing the areas for the beaches they were guided by a number of criteria, including their convenience in terms of proximity to roads and the railway, their being spacious enough and their being free from liabilities, such as registration with the cadastre or the presence of notarized legal contracts.

Meanwhile, at least one entrepreneur owning a commercial beach at Lake Sevan has protested the kind of approach.

The founder of the Flamingo beach sent an open letter to the prime minister, calling the government’s decision on the establishment of public beaches illegal and demanding that it be revoked.

The Sevan National Park state-run non-commercial organization dismissed the claim, saying that the issues raised by the beach owner “under the guise of environmental concerns” were groundless and that beaches, as the state property, should primarily serve the public interest.

The Environment Ministry representative suggested that the businessman take his complaint to court.

He stressed that by law even outside public beaches no one can charge money from people who want, for instance, to put up a tent or have a swim in the lake.

“They can charge citizens only for concrete services,” Avalian explained.

Sevan Rising: Lake Sevan’s recovery quicker than expected

The data of the Gegharkunik region local administration says the level of Lake Sevan has increased up to 2.44 meters in the last 6 years, to its present mark is of 1,898.95 meters. During the last year the level has grown 37 centimeters – almost twice more than expected.

“The state at least now pays attention to the lake and takes measures to restore its balance. Before, water and fauna resources of the lake were exploited mercilessly,” says researcher at the institute of hydro-ecology and ichthyology, National Academy of Sciences Armenuhi Nikoghosyan. “A lake is a living organism: until it appears in a critical condition, it can resist and restore. But then a moment comes when no medicine is helpful any more. The moment came now and nature makes attempts to treat the lake that is important for the whole South Caucasus and to force proper bodies to finally sober up.”

Sevan’s level is also conditioned both by efficient management of 29 rivers flowing into the lake, and favorable climate conditions.

The ministry’s annual report says the level of the lake its volume dropped from the initial 58.5 billion cubic meters to 33, between 1933-2000, due to industrial exploitation.

Within the period of intense water emission in 1949-1962 the level of water in Sevan dropped for 1 meter per year. In the decade following 1991 more than 6.1 billion cubic meters of water was let out of the lake for energy and agricultural purposes.

“The level of Sevan dropped for 13 meters in those years: high class plants that used to thicken and enrich the lake in the littoral areas and species of fauna were exterminated,” Rafayel Hovhannisyan, director of the institute for hydro-ecology and ichthyology says. “The quality of water in the lake dropped consequently causing the water cover with unicellular algae. That could lead to making the water useless also for agricultural purposes.”

The ministry’s report says the biomass of high class plants dropped drastically within the mentioned period (from 9 million tons to 8,000). The result was that in 1970s the lake became covered with green-blue algae.

Since 2002, though, the level in Lake Sevan has been rising.

Hovhannisyan says the amount of water emitted from the lake in the last 5-6 years has dropped thrice – to 120-150 cubic meters, against the 500 billion cubic meters in previous years.

“Besides, it seems like our suggestion to build additional reservoirs to accumulate thaw waters to use them in addition to the one from Sevan has also been activated,” Hovhannisyan continues.

Representatives of the ministry of environmental protection mention the increase of the recent years is connected with the comprehensive program “Restoration of the ecological balance of Lake Sevan” developed in 2001 within the framework of the Law on Lake Sevan adopted by the National Assembly.

Beginning that year the amount of emitted water from Sevan was limited twice to 150 million cubic meters per year.

According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s natural resource management agency’s head of the dendropark management department Siranuish Muradyan.beginning 2003 Global Ecological Fund and World Bank have been financing Natural Resource Management and Poverty Reduction program that includes also plans for solution of the Sevan problem.

The restoration program provides for an increase in the lake water level by 6 meters within a 30 year period (20 cm annually) bringing it to its highest point since 1957.

“The increase of Sevan’s level can not be anything but useful. Having additional water [resource] is a necessity for having strategic reserve, because 80 percent of drinking and irrigation water in Armenia is provided by Sevan. And no one can predict the degree of air temperature increase in the future causing vaporization of the water in Sevan,” Hovhannisyan says.

Presumably, the increase in Sevan’s level will also cause problems of flooding numerous settlements. However, state bodies are more optimistic about the problems with the increase rather than decrease of the water.

As a result of the increased water level about 450 hectares of land have already gone underwater, 215 out of which is forestland. By the 2005-2006 RA Government Decree, 147 million drams were allocated to underwater cleaning-up of the vegetated and forest areas of the Sevan basin. As a result, 215 hectares have been cleaned.

“The water level wasn’t expected to rise so rapidly. The lakeside cleaning works were planned to start in 2007. However climatic conditions and wise water management contributed to a quick rise of the lake’s water level, and cleaning works started in 2005 in extreme conditions,” Muradyan says.

According to her, organic materials, in case of appearing underwater, will damage the waters of Sevan.

An ecologist of Sevan National Park Vahe Gulanyan says that the land layer is thicker in Vardenis area, consequently great difficulties are encountered while cleaning.

“Area cleaning is implemented by various organizations participating and winning tenders. So far we have received 1,500 square meters of timber as a result of cleanings, to be legally given to Sevan National Park,” says Gulanyan, adding that they are unable to clean some areas because of the rapid increase in water level as well as lack of sufficient means.

By some preliminary calculations in case of water increase to the point of 1,900 meters high, 1,797 hectares of land will be left under it, 1,037 of which are forestland.

Armenia To Step Up Vital Lake Cleanup

08.10.2010 Hovannes Shoghikian

The Armenian government has announced plans to spend 44 billion drams ($122 million) in the next few years on addressing the environmental fallout from the rising water level of the country’s ecologically vital Lake Sevan.

The government engineered the dramatic rise in 2000 in response to a dangerous shrinkage of Armenia’s main water reservoir that had begun in the 1950s. Environmentalists had long warned that Sevan’s enlargement is the only way of saving its endangered ecosystem.

The picturesque lake, which has a total area of almost 1,000 square kilometers, has since been mainly swollen by two underground tunnels pumping water from mountain rivers. The government’s decision to cut back on use of Sevan’s waters for power generation and irrigation has been a major factor.

The lake’s level has soared by at least three meters over the past decade and currently stands at just over 1,900 meters above the sea level. About half of the surge has occurred in the last three years.

Under the government’s long-term rehabilitation program, Sevan is to rise by another 3.5 meters by 2029. It envisages that further growth will be less drastic and average roughly 20 centimeters per annum.

The process, strongly supported by Armenian ecologists, has created a separate environmental problem threatening to turn the hitherto clean lake into a swamp. Sevan’s rising waters have submerged large swathes of shore covered with man-made forests.

The state-run Sevan National Park and regional authorities failed to fully cleanse land of trees and other vegetation on time, despite funds allocated by the central government. State prosecutors launched last month criminal proceedings into the alleged misappropriation of those funds by officials and private contractors.

According to an inter-ministerial government commission on Sevan, about 600 hectares of forests as well as over 500 buildings, houses and other structures are currently under water. Also flooded are 16.6 kilometers of shoreline roads.

“The quality of work done at more than 1,000 hectares of other forests, which were cut down previously, does not satisfy us and an additional clean-up is not excluded,” the commission chairman, Vladimir Movsisian, told journalists. He said that the government has purchased special equipment from Finland used for uprooting trees and that it will be delivered to Armenia later this month.

In Movsisian’s words, the 44 billion drams in fresh funding for Sevan earmarked by the government will also be used for dismantling the flooded structures -- most of them resorts -- and compensating their owners. The official stressed that no financial compensation will be paid for properties built on the Sevan coast illegally.

Karine Danielian, a prominent environment protection campaign sitting on Movsisian’s commission, said the success of the planned cleanup is vital for Sevan and Armenia’s entire ecosystem. “It’s like giving a sick person the right medicine,” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service, referring to the ongoing rise in Sevan’s level. “But of course, the key problems are clean water and the Sevan’s coast. If we solve them simultaneously, I think the lake will heal.”

Over 350 Buildings Dismantled Along Lake Sevan

Over 350 Buildings Dismantled Along Lake Sevan - Minister

From: Mihran Keheyian <> Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2012 11:42:42 +0400 (AMT) OVER 350 BUILDINGS DISMANTLED ALONG LAKE SEVAN - MINISTER February 08, 2012 | 17:44

YEREVAN. - Over 350 out of 500 useless buildings were dismantled along the Lake Sevan, Armenian Minister of Nature Protection Aram Harutyunyan said adding that works are in progress.

In response to the question by parliamentary opposition Heritage group MP Larisa Alaverdyan whether the buildings of Lavanada City resort were dismantled, the Minister said the company had moved 70 buildings to allowed area.

To note, the complex belongs to ruling coalition member Orinats Yerkir party MP Arayik Hayrapetyan.

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