AUA Hosts Experts and the Public to Discuss Armenia’s Draft Law on Environmental Impact Assessment
By Alen Amirkhanian, Director of the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment
YEREVAN, Armenia – On January 27, 2014, the American University of Armenia’s Acopian Center for the Environment (AUA ACE), in cooperation with the Republic of Armenia’s Ministry of Nature Protection and the World Bank, organized a public discussion on the country’s Draft Law on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA).
The Republic of Armenia is currently considering a Draft Law on Environmental Impact Assessment that promises to offer advances in the way environmental impact assessments are done for mining, construction, agriculture, urban planning, and other projects. The legislation also intends to bring the national legislation in compliance with Armenia’s international legal obligations, including the Espoo and Aarhus Conventions as well as the Kyiv Protocol.
First Deputy Minister of Nature Protection Mr. Simon Papyan, who led the working group that drafted the law, presented the aims and the status of the current draft. Two members of this working group, Ms. Azganush Drnoyan and Mr. Artur Grigoryan, also presented on the details and innovations of the current draft legislation. In addition, the World Bank’s Lead Environmental Specialist, Ms. Adriana J. Damianova, presented her view on ways in which the current draft will address some of the concerns about the approval of mining projects.
A major advance in the current draft is that it empowers public authorities to define the scope of work for EIAs. This is in sharp contrast to the current law, in which the applicant proposes a scope and authorities have no legal basis to demand otherwise. The draft law also introduces new approaches to the valuation of environmental harm resulting from economic activity. It also paves paths for more effective public participation and determination of affected communities.
Present in the audience were more than 60 environmental experts, representatives of international development organizations, environmental NGOs, and the concerned public. A key message emerging from the in-depth discussion was that the draft law, in spite of its strides, still has gaps that need to be addressed.
Mr. Papyan encouraged the concerned public to present their comments in writing for consideration. He and other experts in the audience explained that there is still time to amend the Draft Law even if it has already been presented to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Agriculture and Environment.
The current Draft Law was proposed after Republic of Armenia President Serzh Sargsyan vetoed an earlier version in 2012 citing that “the standards for assessment of the impact of economic activities is not adequately substantiated.” Many environmentalists also opposed the vetoed version.
No concrete timetable exists on when the current Draft Law will be adopted by the National Assembly for final approval and sent to the President for signature. It is, however, widely anticipated that the National Assembly will act on the Draft Law in its Spring session.
AUA President Dr. Bruce M. Boghosian and AUA ACE Director Alen Amirkhanian welcomed the participants in their opening remarks. “It is my hope that AUA can become a space to discuss environmental issues openly and rigorously. For this, we need government, business, international organizations, and civil society to come together and exchange ideas and views. This will only strengthen our ability as a country to develop sound approaches and policies,” said Amirkhanian.
Video recording of the event is available here.
To download individual speaker’s texts, presentations, and videos, please click here.
The AUA Acopian Center for the Environment (AUA ACE) is a research center of the American University of Armenia. AUA ACE promotes the protection and restoration of the natural environment through research, education, and community outreach. AUA ACE’s focus areas include sustainable natural resource management, biodiversity and conservation, greening the built environment, clean energy and energy efficiency, as well as information technology and the environment.
Environmental experts, representatives of international development organizations, environmental NGOs, and members of the concerned public were present at the event.
From left to right: Artur Grigoryan, Azganush Drnoyan, Adriana Jordanova Damianova, and Simon Papyan.
Adriana Jordanova Damianova, Lead Environmental Specialist and Program Team Leader in Europe and Central Asia Region, the Sustainable Development Department, The World Bank
Azganush Drnoyan, Expert of the Environmental Expertise, member of working group for developing the Draft EIA law