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The Aarhus Convention and its application at the local level. Hrazdan

On October 19, an awareness raising event entitled “Aarhus Convention and its application at the local level” was held with the support of the “A. D. Sakharov Armenian Human Rights Center” NGO by “Public Awareness and Monitoring Center” NGO in the city of Hrazdan, with was attended by teachers, citizens, students, representatives of NGOs and the Kotayk Court of Common Jurisdiction.
Representative of Hrazdan Aarhus Center A. Mnatsakanyan spoke about the deterioration of the environmental situation in Hrazdan region, threatening hazards and the importance of public awareness and making heard the public’s voice in order to prevent them.

Particularly, the Aarhus Convention was presented as a tool for civil society to become aware of environmental issues, to participate in decision-making process and, where appropriate, in applying for justice to restore their violated rights. She also mentioned about the possibility of cooperation between local governments, the public and the private sector, presenting both the experience of both local and other countries towards the transparent management of the sector.

In particular was presented the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) Protocol, which calls on enterprises to provide accurate data on hazardous emissions to the public. (The protocol has been signed by Armenia, but has not yet ratified). During the event, a heated debate took place, where several issues and questions were raised regarding ratification of the PRTR Protocol, as the participants considered the experience of other countries interesting and important.

Though there are no developments in the exploitation of the Hrazdan iron mine at present, the issue in Hrazdan remains the focus of attention among the citizens. The participants in particular questioned whether they would be notified before starting the work.

The Aarhus Center representative, who also presented the EIA process and the procedure of conducting public hearings, urged to be vigilant, reminding that Aarhus Center would promote dissemination of information if necessary.

The attendees confirmed that their searches for information on the state of water, air and soil at the official websites are in vain, while they are interested in what kind of water and soil was received the food, which eat their children, which they qualified as inaccessibility or lack of information.
One of the participants mentioned that it would be great to develop environmental programs in school programs and conduct similar events with pupils so that they, as future owners of the country, would be more aware of the situation and current processes.

At the end of the discussion the participants expressed their gratitude for the importance of carrying out such awareness-raising events.

Anahit Mnatsakanyan,
“Public Awareness and Monitoring Center” NGO

“The content of the article, the views and opinions expressed therein belong to the author and may not coincide with the views of the A. D. Sakharov Human Rights Center NGO.”