By Astghik Bedevian
Environmentalists in Armenia have urged the government to put proper economic mechanisms in place to reduce the scale of loggings and put an end to recent years’ uneconomical use of local timber.
Armenian Forests NGO in particular wants the rates of payments for the use of natural resources to be reconsidered.
“Thus, we will both preserve forests and make our economy healthier,” the NGO’s head Nazeli Vartanian says.
The organization suggests exempting timber imports from all taxes and dues to encourage timber importers and impose high payment rates for exporters. They suggest the same in retail of wooden products like furniture by imposing excises or lowering taxes for non-wooden furniture.
Vartanian says imports of timber and wood as construction materials have drastically reduced in recent years. She says that Armenia that used only imported materials for wooden production in Soviet times now is exporting its timber in great amounts.
HayAntar Company Director General Martun Matevosian agrees that it would be logical to lower additional costs connected with timber import in a country where wood is in short supply.
He expects the scale of illegal logging to increase on the threshold of winter and calls it a natural phenomenon.
“Illegal loggings are typical of countries with poor social conditions and shortage of energy resources,” Matevosian explained.
According to HayAntar, 819 cubic meters of trees have been illegally cut in the ten months of this year. Matevosian says the scale of logging decreased in recent years and cites figures for 2003 during which 16,000 cubic meters were cut illegally.
Vartanian says this official statistics is in stark contrast with figures cited by international experts. Vartanian quotes international studies suggesting that 800,000 cubic meters of trees were felled in Armenia in 2003.