Environment in Armenia Essay

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Although landlocked, this Asian country has 1,400 square kilometers of inland water. The climate of Armenia is highland continental with hot summers and cold winters. Rivers tend to be fast flowing. Much of the terrain is mountainous, with elevations ranging from 400 to 4,090 meters. Because of the mountains, travel within Armenia is often difficult. In addition to frequent droughts, Armenia is subject to occasionally severe earthquakes that damage the environment and threaten human lives. For instance, an earthquake that hit Leninakan (Gyumri) in 1988 cost 25,000 lives.

Armenia’s limited mineral resources include small deposits of gold, copper, molybdenum, zinc, and aluminum. After a long period of industrialization and resource exploitation under communism, many Armenians have returned to agrarian production. Approximately 18 percent of the land is arable, and the soil is particularly fertile in the Aras River Valley. Some 45 percent of the population is involved in agriculture. Nevertheless, Armenia imports most of its food.

Around 65 percent of Armenians live in urban areas. With a current population of 2,982,094, Armenia has a negative growth rate (minus 0.25 percent). The per capita income of $5,100 places Armenia in 129th place in world incomes. Experiencing a poverty rate of 43 percent and an unemployment rate of 30 percent, Armenia is still struggling to regain equilibrium as an independent nation.

Environmental Concerns

Eight percent of Armenians do not have sustained access to safe drinking water, and 16 percent do not have access to improved sanitation. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Reports rank Armenia 83rd among 232 nations in overall quality-of-life issues.

Environmental problems, many of them legacies of authoritarian rule and conflict with neighbors, including Azerbaijan, are extensive in Armenia. The soil is heavily polluted from the use of pesticides such as DDT. Around 12.4 percent of land area is forested. Extensive deforestation began during the energy crisis of the 1990s, as Armenians burned trees for firewood. Illegal logging has continued in response to the demand for timber.

The Hrazdan and Aras Rivers are heavily polluted, and drinking water supplies have been threatened by the draining of Lake Sevan as a hydropower source. Desertification has become an issue in certain areas, and the government has replaced parks and other natural areas with homes and businesses. In 2005, the government announced plans to build a major highway through the Shikahogh Nature Reserve, placing 1,000 species of plants and wildlife at risk and destroying tens of thousands of trees.

While 7.6 percent of Armenia’s land is protected, reserved areas are vulnerable to the whims of the government. Of 84 endemic species of mammals, 11 are threatened with extinction. Four of 236 species of birds are also endangered. Environmentalists around the globe are greatly concerned about the reopening of the Metsamor nuclear power plant, which closed after the 1988 earthquake.

There is considerable international pressure on the government to shut down the plant. A study by Yale University in 2006 ranked Armenia 69th of 132 countries on environmental performance, slightly below the relevant income and geographic groups. The lowest scores were in the categories of air quality, water resources, and sustainable energy.

The Ministry of Nature Protection, in conjunction with the Ministers of Health, Agriculture, and Urban Development, is responsible for implementing environmental law in Armenia. In the late 1990s, the government passed a bevy of environmental laws within the framework of the National Environmental Action Plan. Particular laws targeted the problems of desertification, ozone depletion, water resource management, and organic pollutants. Since 2000, new laws have been enacted that include land, water, and mineral resources code. Additional modernization of environmental laws is underway.

Armenia has signed the following international agreements: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, and Wetlands. The agreement on Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants has been signed but not ratified.


  1. Committee on Environment Policy, “The Report of Republic of Armenia on the Results of Implementation of EPR Recommendations” (Geneva: Committee on Environmental Policy, 2004);
  2. Timothy Doyle, Environmental Movements in Minority and Majority Worlds: A Global Perspective (Rutgers University Press, 2005);
  3. Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom, Asia: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues (ABC-CLIO, 2003).

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