ATP Celebrates Earth Day in Kotayk with UN, US Embassy

YEREVAN—The celebration of Earth Day is gaining in popularity at a rapid pace in Armenia. This year, Armenia Tree Project (ATP) celebrated by planting trees in the community of Teghenik in the Kotayk region. On Fri., April 20, the U.S. Embassy in Armenia and the United Nations joined ATP to plant a cluster of decorative and fruit trees in Teghenik.

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern plants trees with schoolchildren from the town of Teghenik as part of an Earth Day program with the United Nations and Armenia Tree Project. (Photograph by Alex Tarverdi)

“Our goal in planting is to restore green spaces throughout Armenia to provide valuable environmental services including clean air, soil retention, and shade during hot summers,” noted ATP Managing Director Tom Garabedian. “The Kotayk region had significant greenery some 150-200 years ago. These planting activities offset the impacts of deforestation, and the creation of green spaces represents an important step in the improvement of the environment and quality of life in the region.”

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern joined his colleagues from the embassy and took part in ATP’s Earth Day tree planting. “This year I’m honored to join Armenia Tree Project in Teghenik to mark Earth Day. The trees we plant here will improve the environment and help highlight the necessity of maintaining our natural surroundings,” Heffern said.

The trees were planted as part of ATP’s innovative “community forests” program, which was initiated in 2011. “The aim of this new program is to create small community forests in areas that are deprived of any green zones and nearby forests,” explained Garabedian. “ATP identifies affected areas and partners with the local authorities to establish these community forests. While the trees are provided by ATP, the local community invests resources in planting and long-term maintenance of the trees on their land. The program was designed with sustainability in mind.”

This program started with planting at sites in Karenis and Teghenik in the Kotayk region, where nearly 6,000 trees were planted in 2011. “The program has been successful so far, and we have received requests from other community leaders who want to establish small forests in their villages,” added Garabedian. “This Earth Day tree planting was part of ATP’s mission to green Armenia, and we look forward to expanding these partnerships.”

Schoolchildren and other members of the local community participated in the planting along with guests from various organizations and international institutions. A total of 2,000 decorative and fruit seedlings were planted for Earth Day. The new forest includes oak, pine, ash, pear, and apple trees.

“The proclamation of April 22 as International Mother Earth Day by the United Nations is an acknowledgement that the Earth and its ecosystems provide its inhabitants with life and sustenance. It also recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social, and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity,” said United Nations Resident Coordinator Dafina Gercheva.

Earth Day events are held worldwide to increase awareness and appreciation of the natural environment. Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, first called for an environmental teach in, or Earth Day, to be held on April 22, 1970. Over 20 million people participated that year, and Earth Day is now observed each year by more than 500 million people in 175 countries.

ATP’s mission is to assist the Armenian people in using trees to improve their standard of living and protect the environment, guided by the need to promote self-sufficiency, aid those with the fewest resources first, and conserve the indigenous ecosystem. ATP’s three major programs are tree planting, environmental education, and sustainable development initiatives.

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