By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government said on Thursday that its ambitious plan to revive the ecologically vital lake Sevan is being implemented as planned and will soon receive a strong boost from Western donors.
Officials said the construction of a second mountainous tunnel pumping water into the lake, slated for completion this summer, will allow them to raise its level by 6.5 meters in the next 20 years. The target was set by a special law on Sevan approved by the Armenian parliament last year.
Sevan, which has shrunk dramatically in the last 30 years, already gets 250 million cubic meters of water each year from the river Arpa in central Armenia. Its linkage to another mountainous river, Vorotan, will bring an additional 160 million cubic meters of water. According to Gagik Martirosian, head of State Committee for Water Resources, the Vorotan tunnel will enable the authorities to raise Sevan’s level by up to 35 centimeters annually.
Martirosian told reporters that the Armenian government will obtain $15 million in loans and grants from the World Bank and other donors to carry out a major repair of the existing Arpa-Sevan tunnel which was built in the Soviet times. The effort will be coordinated by a special commission formed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian’s cabinet on Thursday.
Sevan, which occupies much of the Gegharkunik province, plays a crucial role in Armenia’s entire ecological system, serving as the landlocked country’s main water reservoir. It also feeds a cascade of hydro-electric power plants build along the river Hrazdan which flows out of the lake. Officials say a rainy weather and less intensive use of Sevan’s water for irrigation resulted in a 41-centimeter rise in its level last year.
Martirosian said the government will stop exploiting the lake for irrigation purposes altogether after building several new artificial reservoirs in the next several years.