YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian government has taken a set of measures aimed at increasing the level of Lake Sevan by five meters over the next decade to save it from an ecological disaster–Environment Minister Gevorg Vartanian said Wednesday.
Vartanian told reporters that the use of Sevan’s waters for irrigation purposes will be reduced by 20 percent this year and the flow into hydro-electric stations along Hrazdan river has been cut drastically during the winter. He said these two measures will alone save 13 centimeters of the lake’s level in 1999.
Situated about two kilometers above sea level–Sevan plays a pivotal role for Armenia’s ecological system. Years of Soviet mismanagement and experimen’s have resulted in an unprecedented shrinkage of the lake’s depth and area. Last year–Sevan’s level fell by 23 centimeters–according to the environment ministry. Vartanian said the lake is currently fed with water pumped from one of nearby rivers through a mountainous tunnel. He said another such tunnel will be operational next year.
The rescue measures were approved by the government last week. It also set up an ad hoc commission on Sevan–comprising officials from several ministries.
According to Vartanian–a government ban on all forms of fishing will come into force on June 15 with the aim to restore the lake’s fish stocks. Fishing is the main source of revenue for many residents of the surrounding towns and villages.