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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Armenia

    Chapter 10 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia outlines the State’s responsibility regarding environmental protection and the use of natural resources. Armenia’s “Green Constitution” was created by the National Assembly (Parliament) after the Declaration of Independence in September 1990.

    The legal framework governing Armenia’s use of natural resources and environmental protection includes various legally binding documents, classified in the following categories:

  • Environmental conventions
  • Environmental legislative acts (laws, codes, government resolutions equivalent to laws, National Assembly resolutions)
  • Environmental and environment-related regulations (government resolutions, Prime Minister’s resolutions
  • Environment-related legislative acts (laws, codes, presidential decrees, National Assembly resolutions)

Featured Legislation

1991: Armenia passed the Principles of Legislation on Nature Protection, leading to the creation of specialized laws:

  • The Water Code governs State management and control over water use and duties in water protection and water impact prevention
  • The Land Code regulates land protection
  • The Forest Code oversees the conservation, protection and management of forests
  • The Law on Specially Protected Areas outlines procedures for creating protected areas and how they are managed
  • The Underground Resources Code protects the country’s mineral resources

1992: The Underground Resources Code was approved by Armenia’s National Assembly, and was used as the main legal instrument for managing mineral resource extraction  in Armenia. The law also provides guidelines for protecting these resources to meet economic demands.

1994: Law No. N C-1109-1-3P-121 on atmospheric air protection was passed.The Law consists of 19 Chapters that contain 43 articles. Atmospheric air is one of the basic vital elements of the natural environment. Proceeding from interests of the present and future generations, the Republic of Armenia carries out scientifically proved actions which purpose is to prevent and remove pollution of atmospheric air, other harmful influences on it, and carries out the international cooperation in the sphere of protection of atmospheric air. The Law gives specifications of maximum permissible concentration of substances polluting atmospheric air and maximum permissible physical harmful influences and specifications of levels of maximum permissible emissions of substances polluting atmospheric air and maximum permissible physical harmful influences, regulates emissions of substances polluting atmospheric air by stationary and mobile sources of pollution. The present Law also regulates location, designing, construction and operation of enterprises, constructions and other objects influencing state of atmospheric air, establishes the modalities of compliance with requirements on atmospheric air protection as regards management of pesticides and other preparations, extraction of minerals, location and operation of pit refuse heap and ore barrows, removal, transportation and use of substances polluting atmospheric air and waste products.

1994: The Law on Atmospheric Air Protection was passed, serving as the legal basis for addressing damage caused by air emissions.

1995: The Law on Environmental Impact Expertise was introduced, forbidding any development project to be implemented without a positive environmental impact assessment. The law also ensures public involvement and participation at all stages of said assessments.

1999: The Law on Flora was brought into force, recognizing flora as an important precondition for wellness, social and economic sustainable development. This law defines the State policy of the Republic of Armenia on scientifically motivated protection, maintenance, reproduction and use of natural flora.

2001: The Energy Law was passed. This Law shall regulate the relationships between the government bodies, legal entities of the energy sector operating under this Law, and consumers of electricity, thermal energy and natural gas in the Republic of Armenia. The components of the energy sector are: (a) the electrical energy system; (b) the thermal energy supply systems; and (c) gas supply system. The basic principles of the state policies for the energy sector are as follows: (a) regulation of the energy sector operation; r, and the balancing of their interests; (b) efficient use of domestic energy resources and alternative sources of energy and implementation of economic and legal mechanisms for that purpose; (c) enhancement of the energy independence of the Republic, including the differentiation of domestic and imported energy resources and ensuring the maximum utilization of generating capacities; (d) ensuring the protection of the environment; and (e) encouragement of scientific-technical progress and employment of new energy-efficient and energy-saving technologies. Nuclear energy, its effect on the environment, and related safety issues are regulated pursuant to international treaties and the legislation of the Republic of Armenia. The electricity generation operations implemented by the nuclear power plants is regulated by this Law. Energy production and distribution shall be licensed.

2000: The Law on Fauna was passed, functioning as one of the most important legal instruments which regulate the integrity of Armenia’s biodiversity and guarantee ecological balance with development. The fauna of the Republic of Armenia is its absolute property and is protected, maintained under this law.

2004: Law No. AL-122 “On energy saving and renewable energy" was introduced. The purposes of the present Law shall be defining the principles of the state policy on development of the energy saving and renewable energy and the mechanisms of the enforcement of those aimed at: (a) strengthening the economic and energy independence of the Republic of Armenia; (b) increasing the economic and energy security and energy systems safety level of the Republic of Armenia; (c) establishment and development of new industry infrastructure and organization of services promoting energy saving and renewable energy; and (d) reduction of adverse techno-born impacts on the environment and human health. The principles of state policy in the area of energy saving and renewable energy are: (a) increasing level of supply of locally generated renewable energy carriers to satisfy the energy demand of the economy; (b) implementation of energy saving, as well as development and enforcement of legal and economic mechanisms for the promotion of renewable energy; (c) ensuring high priority of efficient use of energy given the increasing volumes of imported and extracted energy resources; (d) ensuring increase of renewable energy resources usage as well as application and development of renewable energy new technologies aimed promoting that; (e) ensuring competitiveness of renewable energy resources and protection/enforcement of rights of businesses engaged in the area of renewable energy; (f) ensuring high priority of issues of environmental protection and efficient (economic) usage of natural resources while implementing measures/activities aimed at the development of the energy saving and renewable energy; (g) promotion of energy efficient production of electric and/or heat energy, including for autonomous energy producers; (h) promotion of integrated activities between the autonomous energy producers, using renewable energy resources, and the energy system aimed at the exchange of electric energy; (i) promotion of consumer choices and use of different energy carriers and energy efficiency technologies; and (j) implementation of energy saving and renewable energy state (national) targeted programs.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • A breakaway state in the South Caucasus, Artsakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but also plays an integral part of historic Armenia. In September 2020: War erupted between Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and Azerbaijan, leading to catastrophe for the region's biodiversity. Armenia and Artsakh boast more than 6,000 plant species, 153 species of mammals and 400 species of birds. These species of flora and fauna, however, were threatened by white phosphorus munitions deployed by Azerbaijan. The use of white phosphorus munitions is classified  as a war crime, with irreparable effects on the ecosystem. Armenia is calling on the international community to recognize the use of the chemical weapon as a form of regional ecocide. White phosphorus munitions threaten the habitats of endangered species of the region such as the brown bear, Bezoar Goat, Armenian Mouflons, Eurasian Lynx, vultures, eagles and the endangered  Caucasian Leopard.
  • A 2015 Report revealed that corruption in Armenia’s mining industry is rampant, with government officials and parliamentarians having direct stakes in mining companies. Most of these companies are registered offshore to hide ownership and this a clear violation of Articles 65 and 88 of the Armenian constitution which states that members of the government and parliament must not engage in entrepreneurial activities. Armenian officials are also given bribes for issuing licenses for mining operations to the following companies:  GeoPro Mining (Russia); Global Gold (United States); Lydian International (UK); Cronimet (Germany) and FLSmidth (Denmark). The World Bank estimates if mining continues without the enforcement of codes and regulations, Armenia can lose all of its forests by the year 2030.

References and Further Reading

Contacts

Republic of Armenia Ministry of Environment: minenv@env.am