Hai Tahd means something different for everyone. To me, it means promoting the development and prosperity of Armenia through sustainability. During my visit to Armenia in 2018, I saw the need for environmental change in the region, and it sparked my desire to help instigate it. I hope to combine my background in environmental science and research with my love of activism and policy to shape an eco-friendly Armenia.
It is no secret that developing countries and marginalized communities are the most environmentally vulnerable. Poor infrastructure, high levels of pollution and limited access to resources often lead to poor environmental conditions, and thus, poor public health. Armenia is no exception and suffers from environmental issues including over-exploitation of natural resources, environmental pollution, illegal logging and poor management of water resources and waste. Access to energy resources proves to be challenging as there are little natural sources, so the grid relies on the importation of oil and gas into the country. As a result, Armenia has been relying on the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant for its energy which causes further problems in the form of radioactivity. Water consumption from Lake Sevan for irrigation is another current practice that has led to a decrease in the water level and is endangering the flora and fauna of the area. Lastly, deforestation as a result of illegal logging has proven to be a problem in the reduction of wood used to warm homes in the winter. While this is a threat to the well-being of citizens, the logging of trees also limits the region’s ability to counteract the pollution produced via chemical plants, cars, and other pollutants.
There have been efforts made in Armenia to resolve these issues. As part of the Paris Climate Agreement, Armenia’s Nationally Determined Contribution is to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 emission levels and to increase forest cover to 12.9 percent. These initiatives, as well as others, make up the GREEN Armenia platform which is supported by the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations Development Program. This platform aims to combine and optimize policies and investments that can further the development of a sustainable Armenia. Another effort that works toward the same goal includes the plan to build two new solar power plants that could replace the need for the energy produced by the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant. This effort is being made collaboratively between the Armenian government and private renewable energy companies which have plans to build the first new plant by 2025.
Armenia will benefit greatly from these initiatives. First, the implementation of renewable energy would allow the country to be more energy self-sufficient and less vulnerable to the disruption of resources. As an example, pre-2020 Artsakh had seen great success with solar energy, which can be replicated in Armenia. These initiatives are being accomplished through policy changes within the Armenian government and through international aid from other countries; they have the potential for investment from the private sector.
At Tulane University, I conducted research in the geology department and discussed solutions to Armenia’s environmental challenges with classmates. This summer, as an ANCA Leo Sarkisian intern, I am looking to convert my research into concrete action through federal level advocacy — both in terms of US and Armenia priorities. On the Armenian environmental front in Armenia, the ANCA has worked to reverse the effects of deforestation in Armenia through legislation promoting debt-forgiveness for reforestation. These efforts can be expanded to support the further greening of Armenia through US assistance for solar farms and efficient irrigation systems. An environmentally sustainable Armenia promotes self-sufficiency, encourages development, decreases health risks among citizens and strengthens the economy. I look forward to working with key stakeholders in this sector — in the Armenian homeland and here in the US — to make this a reality.