Armenia’s Breadbasket Risks Desertification

October 9, 2016 - Essential Water

By Gohar Stepanyan*

Armenian environmentalists have warned that a bang in a fish-farming attention in a Ararat hollow is drying adult essential H2O sources in internal communities.

The valley, that stretches for 90 km along a Armenian-Turkish limit in a south-west, is Armenia´s many critical rural region.

Although a artesian dish provides over 60 per cent of a country´s subterraneous water, a internal area is during risk of desertification.

Experts contend that fish tillage in a 6,600 kilometres block hollow has exacerbated descending groundwater levels, with some-more than 30 communities in a hollow confronting H2O shortages.

Aram, a rancher who asked to sojourn anonymous, lives in a encampment of Mrgavet in a Ararat region. He pronounced that a groundwater spin on his tract of land has forsaken by around 40 cm any year. He has to frequently lower his good to safeguard there is adequate H2O to direct his land.

This year, Aram had to uproot a good by half a metre.

“The fact that we have no H2O is a error of a fish farmers,” Aram said, explaining that formerly it had been adequate to puncture down one metre for H2O to appear.

“Now, one can strech it usually during a abyss of 14 metres,” he said, definition that residents were forced to use electric pumps.

Not so prolonged ago, he continued, a groundwater was usually 10 cm next a earth´s surface. Villagers had to ask a workers during a irrigation use to cut off a H2O supply to equivocate their gardens being swamped.

“The H2O flooded basements and cleared divided all a [stores of] jars and potatoes. Back then, we dreamed about a H2O decreasing. Now we dream about carrying water,” Aram continued.

Many of his neighbours have stopped flourishing vegetables. One could not means to lower his good while another motionless to usually let his source of H2O dry up.

“People are cursed to starvation, if there is no water. But who thinks about us,” Aram said. “Around us are fish farms, that have pumped all a groundwater.”


Fish tillage in a Ararat Valley began in a Soviet era, though on a most smaller scale.

“At that time, a fish-farming attention was good offset with a internal marketplace direct and did not benefaction any risk for a environment, given it especially used a healthy outlets of artesian aquifers and did not surpass a self-recovery intensity of a subterraneous H2O resource,“ a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) pronounced in an criticism published progressing this year.

Then, in a 2000s, a fish-farming bang set in. Between 2000 and 2015, some-more than 230 fish farms were built with a sum pool area of around 3,530 hectares.

Many were built tighten to any other, with tiny courtesy for a environmental impact or middle and long-term marketplace demand.

“The drilling of artesian wells took place though any control or organisation by particular open agencies,” a USAID investigate noted. This resulted in “widespread and drifting wastage of vital freshwater pot in defilement of simple beliefs for protected use of subterraneous H2O resources”.

USAID cited investigate by a Clean Energy and Water Programme (CEWP), according to that a annual expenditure of artesian H2O by fisheries in Ararat Valley totaled 1,493 million cubic metres. The self-recovery intensity of a artesian aquifer is usually 1,226.2 million cubic metres per year.

All this has led to a diminution in healthy dirt moisture. In a Masis region, for example, cracks have seemed in residential houses due to descending groundwater levels.

The artesian dish also provides celebration H2O and irrigation to a surrounding cities of Armavir, Etchmiadzin, Artashat and Ararat.

Ecologist Ashot Khoyetsyan told IWPR that a Ararat valley, that is around 850 metres above sea level, is now deliberate to be semi-desert terrain.

In addition, rainfall has decreased since of tellurian meridian change. According to a Armenian meteorological service, a normal annual heat has risen by 1.3 degrees and steam has decreased by 10 to 12 per cent over a past 20 years.

“This is a regulation for desertification,” Khoyetsyan said, observant that some-more and some-more areas had been affected.

The Ararat valley´s primary problem is descending groundwater, though this has in spin led to a arrangement of 30,000 hectares of delegate salt marshes. Armenia is not in a position to desalinate these areas.

“The dirt erosion is fast building in a Ararat Valley and covers about 10 per cent of a territory. This is a outrageous figure for a Ararat valley, that is also a solitary ´breadwinner´ of a country,” Khoyetsyan said.

Another problem is a miss of a correct growth plan for a fish-farming sector. This has led to poignant overproduction and a decrease in revenues.

Armenia now produces about 14,000 tonnes of fish per year, of that 20 per cent are exported to a countries of a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), according to a method of agriculture.

Hovik Aghinyan, arch hydrogeologist during a state Hydrogeological Monitoring Centre, pronounced that a myopic use of resources has caused a widespread dump in H2O levels via a Ararat´s artesian basin.

The method of inlet insurance had hermetic many forlorn and illegally dug wells, though these were mostly tiny ones, Khoyetsyan said.

In 2014 and 2015, a method of inlet insurance hermetic 50 low H2O wells, while 40 were withheld and another 225 blocked up. According to central figures, these measures helped save 1.32 billion cubic metres of water.

However, a USAID investigate cited a most smaller series of wells that had been hermetic – usually 8 in 2015.

“Although this is a really good initiative, a rate during that bootleg or deserted wells are hermetic is not allied with a range of a problem,” a news said.

In total, there are around 560 deserted wells in opposite tools of a valley, of that 100 have poignant capacity, according to a USAID report.

Khoyetsyan combined that after a closure of a deserted wells, groundwater levels rose in a communities around Masis, Sis, Hovtashat, Dashtavan and Zorak.

“It is required to change a irrigation system, examination a use of healthy resources: though a methods of land use sojourn a same,” he added

Garnik Petrosyan, emissary apportion of agriculture, also told IWPR that a conditions in a Ararat hollow indispensable to be addressed by a effective use of H2O resources, season irrigation systems and a introduction of new technologies.

“We are contrast varieties of wheat, barley and legumes for a purpose of cultivation, if necessary,” Petrosyan said.

In Feb USAID announced a launch of a Advanced Science and Partnerships for Integrated Resource Development Project (ASPIRED), a three-year beginning designed to quell a rate of groundwater condensation in a Ararat valley.

Its concentration is on improving technical capacities and augmenting entrance to H2O charge and appetite potency technologies. ASPIRED will consult a wells and springs in a Ararat artesian dish and implement an programmed control complement to guard groundwater condensation in 10 comparison fisheries.

Germany´s state growth bank KfW has also shown seductiveness in providing assistance to a Ararat valley. On Sep 20, Aramayis Grigoryan, afterwards behaving apportion of inlet protection, met with a bank delegation.

“We do not know to what border a German partners will determine to account this programme, though some volume of support will be provided, that can already be pronounced with confidence,” Grigoryan told journalists.

*Gohar Stepanyan is a contributor for This essay was published during IWPR’s CRS 827

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