Armenian lake faces destruction: ecologists
Armenian environmentalists say the country’s largest lake is facing extinction from algae and falling water levels.
The authorities must take action or “the lake will turn into a swamp” through water-logging, according to the Aysor website.
Karine Danielyan, an ecologist who heads the government’s environmental committee, said it was the government’s publication of satellite pictures of the algae this month that provided the final proof.
“We warned them about this two months ago. All the measures may be in place, but we are still destroying Lake Sevan through our thoughtless actions,” Danielyan told Aysor.
The water level in Sevan (pictured) should be lowered to carry out the cleaning work and then restored, Prosperous Armenia party MP Hrant Madatyan argued.
Bardukh Gabrielyan of the Zoology and Hydroecology Research Centre at the National Academy of Sciences said organic substances and phosphorus must be prevented from leaching into rivers that flow into the lake. It was necessary to install sewage treatment on the main rivers, Gabrielyan added. “There are several such plants in the region, but they carry out only mechanical cleaning of sewage waters, which is not enough,” he said.
Gabrielyan told the media it was necessary to restore fish stocks, including crucian carp and crayfish.
Armenian Environment Minister Erik Grigoryan tried to put the algal bloom in the context of climate change, pointing to similar outbreaks in Russia’s Lake Baikal and the Black Sea but ecologists said specific Armenian factors were also to blame.
Grigoryan said the algae would “be gone within a fortnight”.
The minister said: “Previously the cleaning works affected 80 or 100 hectares per year but, with the participation of the prime minister’s staff, the cleaning works will take place both this year and the next two years and will affect 770 hectares.”
Sevan experienced an algal bloom last year and swimmers were advised against using the lake. Grigoryan said there was a similar scare in 1964. But recent satellite pictures show almost half of the lake is now green, pointing to a problem on a larger scale than in the past.
Water resources specialist Knarik Hovhannisyan said too much water was withdrawn for irrigation, which has led water levels to fall four times since 2012 when they should have risen.
She told the media that pollution from multiplying tourist resorts on the shore and sewage in the rivers that fill the lake “could mean losing the only freshwater basin in the region”.
Grigoryan said a government contract bidding process aimed to clean up the shore and rivers so “by 2020-21 this whole area will be completely clean” and water levels should rise again.
Armenian water committee chairman Vardan Melkonyan said less water had been drawn from Sevan this year with 29 million cubic metres removed, compared with 43.5 million in the first half of last year.
Lake Sevan. Picture credit: PXHere