By Armen Zakarian
An unusually long period of rains has given a welcome boost Armenia’s ecologically endangered Lake Sevan, Environment Minister Vartan Ayvazian said on Saturday.
“The level of Sevan has risen by 23 centimeters since January 1, which is equal to 290 million cubic meters of water,” Ayvazian told RFE/RL.
He strongly denied a newspaper report that the mountainous lake, which plays a vital role in Armenia's ecosystem, has actually continued to shrink over the past several months.
Decades of Soviet mismanagement and experiments have resulted in an unprecedented shrinkage of the lake's depth and area. A rescue plan launched by the government in early 1999 was supposed to reverse the dangerous trend. Ayvazian said six consecutive weeks of heavy rains across Armenia are facilitating his ministry’s work.
He said Sevan’s level will be further increased in the coming weeks by rivers and streams that have yet to swell from snow covering surrounding mountains. A colder-than-usual weather has delayed the annual thaw, he added.
The government claims to have stopped artificially pumping water out of Sevan for a cascade of hydro-electric stations situated along Hrazdan River. It says the use of Sevan’s water for irrigation purposes has likewise been minimized.
But environmentalists caution that the measures have not had desired effects.