Highway planned through sensitive Armenian reserve
The highway, which will connect Armenia with Iran, is expected to run through 17km of the reserve, boasting 1,074 types of plants, many of them endemic, as well as Armenian mufflon (wild sheep) and the endangered Caucasian leopard.
According to WWF, the project threatens to destroy at least 30ha of the reserve’s territory and will inevitably lead to deforestation of some of Armenia's unique virgin oak forests.
“Shikahogh is the only place where the forests remain intact in our country and is considered to be a treasure not only for Armenia but the rest of the world as well,” said Dr Karen Manvelyan, Director of the WWF Caucasus in Armenian.
"The highway will split Shikahogh into two parts and not only disturb the course of life in the reserve but will also be easily accessible for poachers and loggers."
More than 20 non-governmental organizations recently attended a WWF-initiated forum to discuss the proposed highway. The forum resulted in an open letter addressed to Armenian President Robert Kocharyan, the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister and Prosecutor General, advising officials that the highway would violate Armenia’s law on Specially Protected Nature Areas.
The Armenian Environmental State Expert Examination Department of the Ministry of Nature Protection has not yet approved the project. According to the department’s director, Ashot Santrosyan, the construction of the road will be considered illegal without the Ministry’s approval and land allocation.
WWF, together with local officials and other organizations, has proposed four alternative routes the highway can take to bypass the reserve. The proposals are currently under governmental consideration.
• The Caucasus leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica) is the most critically endangered species in the Caucasus ecoregion. A rapid investigation conducted through WWF support has shown that about 20 leopards survive in the Lesser Caucasus Mountain Chain and Talysh Mountains. It is believed that there are 5–8 leopards in Armenia.
For more information:
Kakha Tolordava, Communications Officer
WWF Caucasus Programme Office
Tel: +995 32 33 01 54