Economy 17:00 03/02/2024 Armenia

Environmental crisis in Syunik getting worse amid ZCMC's failure to take mitigation measures

Environmentalists have been warning about odors emanating from the Artsvanik tailings dump operated by the Zangezur Copper Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC) and failure to green the landfills for a long time now.

Pastinfo interviewed Mane Hovakimyan, a resident of the village of Artsvanik in Armenia’s Syunik Province, about the situation in the community. The woman stressed the need for a thorough research to determine whether toxic chemicals can be found in the tailings.

"In any case, an artificial pond is visible there, but a research is needed to find out what chemical substances the tailings have and their possible impacts. Many people come to ask questions and leave, but a final solution hasn’t been offered to date,” she said.

“Elders say that there was once a small pond in the area, which was surrounded by fruit trees. The combine compensated the people every time, after which the water level in the tailings pond rose, the people cut back their gardens, so the lake level increased. Now it has reached a level that the gardens are no longer there. Only machines work there to remove the upper layer of the soil. Currently, there is a wasteland there.

“As for the smell, especially on windy days, the smell of chemical substances spreads throughout the community, the wind also carries these substances to Kapan," the resident complained.

According to the woman, the ecological situation in the province is quite challenging. "There was even a case when I came from Syunik to Yerevan with more than 10 people to donate blood, but we were told that many people came from Syunik and no one's blood was suitable for donation. In other words, we have a lot of diseases, so do the residents of the town of Kapan."

At the same time, she emphasized that the local residents cannot demand the ZCMC closure given its economic significance, but no solution is offered at the moment either.

"A few years ago, it was planned to build a plant to recycle the tailings, but it requires large funds and no one seems to be taking any efforts to the end. I think the government should ask ZCMC to make investments and build a waste processing combine or the government itself should allocate funds for it, but at the moment it is obvious that nothing is being done."

Deploring the failure to create protective forest belts in order to mitigate the negative environmental impacts of the tailings, the woman also warned of the removal of forested lands around Artsvanik.

Thus, it can be stated that the ecological situation in Artsvanik is so serious that even the blood of its residents is not considered suitable for donation, while ZCMC fails to make proper investments to mitigate the environmental disaster.

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