By Anna Saghabalian
The water level of Armenia’s ecologically vital lake Sevan has risen by more than one meter over the past two years and will gain six more meters in the next three decades, Environment Minister Vartan Ayvazian said on Wednesday.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Ayvazian said the expansion keeps the Armenian government on track to implement its ambitious plan to revive the moutnainous lake which is key to the country’s entire ecosystem. “I can state that the rise of the lake will continue,” he said.
The plan was enshrined in a special law on Sevan enacted in 2002. The government committed itself to further cutting the use of its waters for power generation. The practice reached its climax during the severe energy crisis of 1992-94, leading to a dramatic shrinkage of the lake.
Also important will be the completion of the construction last summer of a second mountainous tunnel that supplies water to Sevan from a nearby river, Vorotan. The older tunnel was built in the 1970s and now needs capital repairs. Officials from the State Committee on Water Resources said last January that the government will obtain $15 million in loans and grants from the World Bank and other donors to finance the work.
They said water from the two two tunnels will enable the authorities raise Sevan’s level by 35 centimeters annually. But Ayvazian came up with a more modest projection, speaking of “between 20 and 25 centimeters a year.”
Sevan occupies much of the central Gegharkunik province, 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.
Its visibly swelling waters are increasingly threatening to submerge expensive houses and entertainment spots built along the slanting coastline. Ayvazian said their owners will have to tear them town and clean up the area.
“The construction of those houses was often not carried out in accordance with the law and their owners will bear responsibility [for their loss],” he said, adding that others will be compensated by the state.