Planned highway through Armenian nature reserve averted | WWF

Planned highway through Armenian nature reserve averted

Posted on 15 July 2005    
Shikahogh Reserve is home to Armenia's diminishing virgin oak forests.
© K Manvelyan / WWF Caucasus
Yerevan, Armenia – WWF, together with other local and international organizations, is celebrating the decision by Armenian President Robert Kocharian to reverse a decision to build a highway through one of the country's protected areas.

After a prolonged battle against the project, the government has scrapped plans to build 17km of a 90km transnational highway from Armenia to Iran through the Shikahogh nature reserve.

“We are thankful to WWF and many others in the country for their active involvement in the process of saving Shikahogh Reserve and for finding the alternative version of the  highway,” said Aram Aghasyan, Head of  the Protected Territories Department of Armenia's Ministry of Nature Protection. 

The Shikahogh reserve boasts over 1,000 types of plants, many of them endemic, as well as Armenian mufflon (wild sheep) and the endangered Caucasian leopard.

According to environmental experts, the proposed route through Shikahogh threatened to destroy at least 30ha of the reserve’s area and would inevitably lead to deforestation of the unique virgin oak forests and extermination of many species. 
 
“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 WWF's Armenian office.
 
"The highway would split Shikahogh into two parts and not only distrurb the course of life in the reserve but would also be easily accessible for poachers and loggers."
 
The victory is even more satisfying as machinery to begin highway construction had already been brought to a village near the reserve. Construction of the highway from the other side of the Meghri mountain ridge was already in progress without any public discussions.  

"We hope the success of this campaign will be used as a model for other campaigns in the future," added Dr Manvelyan.

"It can also be used as a model for countries that are in a transitional period with newly established processes of democratization, and that are usually accompanied by the uncontrolled plunder of natural resources."
 
For further information:
Dr Karen Manvelyan, Director
WWF Caucasus Programme Office, Armenia 
Tel: +374 10 58 70 79 
Shikahogh Reserve is home to Armenia's diminishing virgin oak forests.
© K Manvelyan / WWF Caucasus Enlarge

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