'Armenian Niagara' Saved From Turning Into a Trickle

© Jeff Masarjian, executive director, Armenia Tree Project

The tallest and most abundant cascade in the country, Trchkan waterfall has been called the "Armenian Niagara" and is a popular destination for people who want to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding area. Its flow of 400 to 500 liters per second was also attractive for a hydro-power company, which received permission to build a dam atop the falls, much to environmentalists' dismay.

Thanks to the efforts of green groups, however, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan on Thursday moved to preserve the falls, suggesting Trchkan be granted "specially protected area" status by the government, in what ArmeniaNow called "a rare victory for Armenian environmentalists."

Activists Force Suspension of Construction
Activists had been camping near the waterfall in protest for more than a week, the paper reported, forcing the dam company, Robshin Ltd., "to suspend its construction and evacuate its heavy equipment from the construction site."

Environmentalists believe construction of the dam on the river Chichkhan, on top of the waterfall, would "imperil [Trchkan's] very existence," according to ArmeniaNow. Responding to these concerns, Sargsyan ordered the country's vice president to "see to it that all agreements be complied with by local government bodies and the waterfall enjoy a specially protected area’s [status]."

Approval Process Needs Reform
Though some activists said the process that allowed the hydro-power plant to be given the go-ahead in the first place must be reformed, others hailed the prime minister's announcement.

“This is the result of our struggle," environmental expert Armen Vermishyan told ArmeniaNow after the statement. "This way Trchkan has been saved, and now it must be preserved.”

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Tags: Activism | Conservation | Dams