The Ombudsman has recorded human rights and fundamental freedoms violations as well in the field of environment
At the annual report of the human rights defender’s activity in 2014 and the violations of fundamental freedoms and human rights were also included issues related to the environment. In section of the identified problems within the competency of the Ministry of Environment and recorded achievements as a positive development was noted that the Ministry has undertaken development and discussion of the package of draft laws on making amendments in the relevant legal acts.A positive development has been recorded in the SHPPs field, in particular as a result of inspections carried out in the 31 SHPP; the compensation for the damage caused to the environment was amounted to 89.1 million AMD. Jointly with the “Ecolur” informational NGO has been launched “Support to SHPPs concerning reforms aiming at sustainable using river ecosystems through a dialogue between the public and the Ministry of Nature Protection” program.
Nevertheless, it was recorded that in parallel with HPPs investment development has been emerged problems associated with the water resources overuse, river ecosystems and population’s social condition. The list of the existing shortcomings and problems is more comprehensive: the Ombudsman noted in particular that there are a number of gaps and deficiencies in the RA law “On the environmental impact assessment and expertise”, which are contrary to Armenia’s international obligations and hinder the effective protection of the environment.
In this section of the report is mentioned that during the action of the previous RA law “On the environmental impact assessment and expertise”, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee in its decisions referred to in the RA legislation and practices inconsistent with the Convention and the proposed to amend the legislation complying it with the pillars of the Convention. In particular, the Committee noted that the environmental impact assessment processes, as well as public participation mechanisms are in need of simplification, it is necessary to eliminate all kinds of obstacles. However, due to the legislative amendments that process has become more complicated, and public participation in the process has reached to a minimum.
Giving a detailed explanation on this issue (pages 169-170 of the report) the Ombudsmen has offered to work out amendments and supplements to the law “On the environmental impact assessment and expertise” to conform it to the requirements of the Aarhus Convention, as well as to put under discussion the observations submitted by environmentalists on the draft legislation. ”
The other disadvantage is related to the delays of conducting environmental inspections at the “Teghut” CJSC for about 2 years without lawful justification, which has violated citizens’ effective legal remedies right towards the state authorities. To this end the Ombudsman has suggested: “to ensure realization of necessary inspections in “Teghout” CJSC in reasonable time limits in the manner prescribed by the law, as well as to control the exploitation of Teghut mine in accordance with the RA.”
According to the report within its jurisdiction the Ministry of Environment did not undertake effective measures to prevent environmental violations, as well as has not conducted environmental inspections in the required number to detect and prevent possible violations.
In regard to this issue the Ombudsmen suggested. “To carry out environmental inspections in accordance with the State Environmental Inspectorate’s annual plan, to include a broad range of inspecting objects, as well as to undertake effective measures to make the offenders accountable and to detect and prevent the reasons of violations.”
The next issue is related to the recording of a variety of complaints, including the draft of Toukhmanuk mine tailings dam and the legality of decision making with regard to other environment related issues, improper organization of public hearings.
It was suggested to: “To exclude violations in organization public hearings procedures for ensuring proper consideration of the projects, draft documents submitted for environmental impact assessment and evaluation, full involvement of the affected community in that procedure.”
Afterwards is mentioned the issue of large amount of dust in the air in Qajaran, which is violated the right of many individuals to live in an environment conducive to their health and well-being, for which was proposed to carry out monitoring of the allowable amount of dust in the air in the shortest possible time frames in Qajaran city and take appropriate actions promptly in case of detecting violations of the allowable dust limit.
Noticing disadvantages as well in relation to illegal logging, in the report is offered to take effective preventive measures to prevent illegal logging, as well as strengthen the supervision of the specially protected areas in order to exclude deforestation cases.
Armenian Aarhus Centers Press Officer
Translated by Anush Beybutyan