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Armenian Nature

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  • Armenian Nature

    Nature’s Fortress: The dark beauty of the forests of Shikahogh
    By Vahan Ishkhanyan

    ArmeniaNow, reporter

    The road leading to the village of Tsav, the Shikahogh reserve, the Sycamore grove, and Mtnadzor passes through the forest of Krnas 40 kilometers to the south of Kapan.

    Kapan - home of historical monuments and pure nature
    Eighty years ago, Axel Bakunts wrote a story that he entitled “Mtnadzor”, which begins: “The only path leading to Mtnadzor is closed after the first snowfall and no one can pass through the forests until spring. However, even today there are dense forests in Mtnadzor where the foot of man has never trod. Trees fall and rot, a new tree grows instead of the fallen one, bears dance whistling like shepherds, wolves howl with their muzzles turned to the moon, wild boars dig black soil with their tusks picking up last autumn’s rotten acorns.”

    Little has changed since then, only the fauna has become scarcer. Villagers tell that during the years of the Karabakh war freedom-fighters would hunt with submachine-guns and open fire on wild boars, killing several at a time. Now the Shikahogh reserve, which also includes the Mtnadzor forest, is under stricter control and its director Ruben Mkrtchyan says that seven poachers were caught in recent months.

    The Red Book of protected species in the reserve includes Caucasian gray bears, wolves, foxes, porcupines, wild boars, deer, forest cats, and 27 species of birds. Nevertheless, the decoration of Shikahogh is considered to be the Middle Eastern leopard. Photographs and other studies show that there are a couple of leopards which have given birth to two cubs.

    Many people know the “Mtnadzor” story from school textbooks and remember how a bear skinned hunter Avi’s skull: “He felt a heavy blow on his back, a fleecy paw had clawed a hold of the skin on the back of his head.” In the next passage Bakunts writes: “Avi is still alive. One can see him with horror when hiding from the passers-by in a corner, he makes moccasins for one or another. Avi wears a chukha (robe), moccasins, has an ordinary body and healthy hands, which very skillfully pierce hide, make knots from leather threads. And on an ordinary body instead of a head here is a human skull, totally skinned, without hair, without skin.”

    Avi was Shikahogh villager Gabriel Dayi (Uncle Gabriel), who died in 1944. Even now, the villagers remember him: “He lived with a sack on his head and made moccasins,” says Mkrtchyan, who lives in Shikahogh. “He was a very strong person. An ox had fallen into a tonir, several people could not get it out, but Gabriel came and dragged it out by the horns.”

    Mtnadzor forest remained untouched even during the energy crisis of 1990s
    The forest got the name of Mtnadzor because it practically sees no daylight. Bakunts writes: “The hills of Mtnadzor are high – it is because of them that during long summer days the sun gives light to the Mtnadzor forest only for several hours. And when the sun still turns to the west in the remote plain, the shadows in Mtnadzor become dense, it is pitch dark under the foliage, bears go hunting, wild boars come down to drink water, a wolf howls shrilly in front of its lair, the howl echoes across Mtnadzor in thousands of voices.”

    Mtnadzor, which is located on a 40-degree hillside, is also today a dense forest, undevoured by the energy crisis of the early 1990s in Armenia. “Mtnadzor differs from other forests by the fact that man visits it very rarely, there are impassable places,” says forest-guard Andranik Abelyan from the village of Tsav.

    Last year the government had approved a plan to build a 17-kilometer-long and 30-meter-wide highway over Mtnadzor towards Meghri. The project required the felling of 145,000 trees and could cause the disappearance of several species of birds nesting in Mtnadzor. People in Kapan were sure that the goal of building the road was to get the timber, especially oak, which is one of the most expensive types of wood. If they cut the forest, the oak would mostly go for export, while some would be taken by local wineries to make brandy barrels.

    Thanks to the campaign launched by environment-protection groups and Syunik authorities against the government plan, the rout of the road was changed.

    Numerous monuments of nature and history are hidden in Shikahogh. Mkrtchyan guides tourists to them with great enthusiasm.

    Sycamore grove, which is protected, begins from Mtnadzor. It is unique in the South Caucasus, since very few sycamores have been preserved in their natural condition. The trees of the 60-hectare grove stretching along the ravine are 800-1,000 years old, and are matched by similar trees on territory seized from Azerbaijan.

    Halidzor fortress has secret underground passes
    It is not known how the grove emerged, though the scientific explanation is that it is the residual remains of a much larger sycamore forest. The popular version of its history relates that caravans from Persia took a rest on the bank of the river and people planted sticks here, from which the forest grew (a sycamore takes root very easily and a tree may grow after a branch is planted into soil). A sycamore has a light-colored trunk and in these territories leaders of mule caravans planted sycamores near mountainous and forest springs so that they could see water sources from a distance. Probably this formed the basis of the popular version of the origin of the grove.

    In pagan times, the sycamore was a sacred tree. The rustle and movement of sycamore foliage was used in fortune-telling. The trees near the Opera House in Yerevan and along the streets and in orchards of Kapan were planted with saplings from the sycamore grove.

    Derenik Hovhannisyan from the village of Hand has established sycamore arboretums. Saplings are sold at a higher price than fruit-bearing seedlings – 1,200 drams (more than $2.50) each – and in five years Derenik has sold 2,500. Sycamore is one of the most suitable trees for planting green areas because it has a large green mass, long life and does not break.

    Giant plane-trees used to be sacred trees in pagan Armenia
    Today, Sycamore grove is facing the threat of disappearance, as the natural reproduction of the forest has slowed down. Derenik says that 10-12 trees collapse every year. There were 2,500 trees in the grove in the 1960s, now only some 1,800 remain.

    “If it continues like this, in 30 years’ time the grove will disappear,” says Derenik. “I am trying to find partners to enlarge the grove by 20 hectares, and we will plant new trees in place of the fallen ones.”

    The river Tsav (Basuta) passes through the grove and Bakunts wrote it in his “Cyclamen” story, saying: “The river Basuta makes noise only in the ravine, scrapes the banks and polishes the blue quartz of the riverbed. The river Basuta rolls in its narrow riverbed, it seems that thousands of hounds are howling under its white foam gnawing stone chains.”

    The village of Shikahogh, first recorded in the 13th Century, is surrounded with numerous medieval monuments and cemeteries.

    East of Kapan’s Halidzor district, there is the Halidzor monastery and fortress on a steep hill. Although visible from Kapan, a closer look at the structures reveals that the forest has already started to conquer them.

    Taxi reaches by an earth road the foot of Halidzor, from where there is a path of about 100 feet to the buildings. The monastery was built in the 17th Century and in the 18th Century it became the main stronghold of David Bek’s liberation struggle. In 1725, the battle of Halidzor took place here during which Armenians were besieged in the fortress for seven days, before breaking out and routing the Turkish army.

    The building has numerous secrets, such as underground passes to the water spring. Halidzor’s closest resident, Serzhik Alexanyan, has been linked with it since the day of his birth.

    “A hundred meters up from the spring there is a tunnel , now it is covered,” says Alexanyan. “We were little kids, picking up khazaz (a garlic-like plant), and we saw the pit, walked a few meters, then were frightened and ran away. It was in the ‘60s, once we were coming down on donkeys and a donkey’s foot stuck and we saw an underground path. It seems to me that the path was used for coming from the fortress and taking water. It runs for 500 meters, but now it is ruined in places.”

    Vahanavank crypt-church of 11th century
    He says that when he was kept guard on the territory, he cleaned up the surroundings and put a door on the monastery so that cattle would not go inside. There is no door now and cows find shelter inside the monastery.

    Several kilometers to the west from Halidzor is Baghaberd. The ruins of Baghaberd’s walls come to the edge of the road in places and in others reach the top of the mountain. At some points, the walls yield to natural barriers of rock. Built in the 4th Century, it is one of the oldest buildings of the territory and one of the largest defensive constructions in Armenia. The walls stand 6-8 meters in height.

    Behind these walls, Syunik’s prince Andovk Syuni defeated the army of the Persian King Shapuh. In 1170, the Seljuks conquered the fortress, massacred the residents and burned 10,000 manuscripts. The destruction of Baghaberd put an end to the Syunik Kingdom.

    Between Baghaberd and Halidzor there is Vahanavank monastery, in a forest under a vertical mountain. It was built in 911 by the son of the Syunik prince Vahan. The main church of the monastery now lies in ruins. During Soviet years there were plans to rebuild the church, but the effort was left half finished. The two-storied crypt-church built by the Syunik Queen Shahandukht remains standing. There is a similar building in another place in Syunik – Tatev.

    In the center of all these monuments and ravines is Kapan, which stretches along the gorge of the river Voghjy and lets through itself rivulets descending from the mountains. Tourists can find four hotels (with rooms from $5 to $70) and several restaurants.

  • #2
    Re: Armenian Nature

    I remember going to now days called Armavir from Echmiadzin and the road was all surrounded by trees, but won't even find a single tree, not even the roots.

    And we had a nice forest by my house, all gone...

    Can't blame the people who are keeping their families warm
    Can't blame the government either for making their necks thicker, thats their job
    Last edited by Fedayeen; 07-11-2006, 03:12 PM.


    • #3
      Re: Armenian Nature

      Tree Canada to Visit Armenia: Building International Bridges for Forestry Futures Enters Phase 2

      OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 2, 2008) - Tree Canada President Michael Rosen and Tree Canada Associate, Adrina Bardekjian Ambrosii will be in Armenia from October 11-25 to share their forestry expertise to help combat desertification. The two-week trip is the second phase of the Building International Bridges for Forest Futures project. In April 2008, Tree Canada sponsored two Armenian foresters, Alla Berberyan and Gagik Amiryan, to learn about sustainable forestry and conservation practices by touring urban and rural forests in south/central Ontario. Project travel is financed by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

      Armenia is a small country with limited resources. Only 8% of Armenia's forests remain intact. Conservationists fear that the country will become a desert within 20 years if deforestation is not stopped. They see education as a key component in promoting the benefits of healthy forests for the social and economic well-being of Armenians. After the visit by Tree Canada staff, both organizations will identify and implement practical projects that can be developed collaboratively in the future.

      Tree Canada will be visiting (amongst others):

      Minister of Environment, Mr. Harutyunyan

      Director, Sevan National Park, Mr. Ziroyan

      Director, Gugark Forestry Agency, Gagik Amiryan

      Dean Sayadyan, Agricultural University of Armenia

      K. Menvelyen, Director World Wildlife Fund, Armenia and

      Nazeli Vardanyan, Director, Armenian Forests (NGO)

      Phase 3 of the project will consist of how Tree Canada and Armenian officials will be able to work together to help restore that nation's forest cover.

      Azerbaboon: 9.000 Google hits and counting!


      • #4
        Re: Armenian Nature

        Eden on Baghramyan: A new park proves green is “not just for business”

        Adjacent to the capital’s most important administrative structures, such as Office of the President and Parliament, Lovers Park opened in Yerevan last month has already become a beloved spot for Yerevan citizens.

        The park with a long history, known to date as Pushkin Park (renamed into Lovers Park in 1995) endured economic crisis of early 1990, furthermore, luckily avoided the fate of many other green areas in Yerevan., which are covered with cafes and restaurants. In 2005 the Boghossian Foundation belonging to Swiss Armenian benefactors Albert and Jean Boghossian, initiated the park renovation as a gift to the city. The construction works were done by Hayastan All-Armenian Fund and the overall reconstruction and renovation project cost $1.3 million.

        Recycling bins for Paper, Glass, Aluminum, Plastic… Armenia is finally making first steps in becoming nature-friendly.

        Designed by the French landscape architect Pierre Rambach in a Japanese landscape manner the 1.6 hectare area of the park immediately catches sight with its and rich green and carefully manicured lawn. The first days after its opening the park daily was visited by some 15,000 visitors, while during the weekends the parks are flooded with newlyweds, who come for a photo session. The whole area of the park is wheelchair accessible.

        The cozy paths leading to waterfalls, stone compositions, to an amphitheater, or small artificial lakes provide a welcomed bit of escape in a city that has become too noisy and offer too little greenery.

        Visitors are immediately impressed with the cleanliness of the park, maintained by 15 staff. Security officers are also on hand.

        And, in what is believed the first attempt at recycling in Armenia, separate trash bins (83 total) are designated for plastic, paper and refuse and negotiations are underway for reprocessing.

        The new park does have a draw-back. Visitors aren’t allowed to sit on the grass.

        “The dry Armenian climate unfortunately does not lend itself to the easy caring of lawns,” Sarhat Petrosyan, the coordinator and one of the architects of the park explains, adding that the young grass is too fragile now. “We hope next year, when the roots of lawn will grow into the soil, it will be possible to make part of the lawn available for rest.”

        “This park, like all new parks needs couple of years to get its final look. The park is not a house, where one could put furniture and make few decorations; it is a living body, which constantly requires works on it. The management of the park (Boghossian Foundation) still has works to do on park and plans to invest more. There are many plans of different cultural events.”

        The park will also have a small snack shop, with a few outdoor seats, special shaded spots for those who enjoy playing backgammon and chess.

        Marianna Stepanyan, the first grade student of Psychology faculty of the Yerevan State University is one of the frequent visitors of the park. She says despite the university is in neighborhood with the huge (Oval) park, she founds the Lovers Park unique.

        “There is something in this park which attracts people and makes them to come here again and again. May be it is the unusual design, or may be a feeling, that you too live in country, where the green area is not only for business, but for its residents as well.”
        Azerbaboon: 9.000 Google hits and counting!


        • #5
          Re: Armenian Nature

          ATP's Community Tree Planting Program continues greening Armenia
          28,422 trees and shrubs already planted for spring season

          Published: Thursday June 04, 2009

          Yerevan - Armenia Tree Project has once again successfully accomplished its greening mission through its flagship Community Tree Planting Program. This spring season, tree plantings, site maintenance, and monitoring were conducted at 94 sites in 12 regions including Artsakh. Already this year, 28,422 fruit and decorative trees have been planted from seedlings grown in ATP's Karin and Khachpar nurseries.

          "This year, we decided to make it a priority to allocate trees to those communities which demonstrated exceptional motivation and a caring attitude towards these environmental restoration projects," stated ATP executive director Jeff Masarjian. "In these places where people were taking extra care in their orchards, we measured very high survival rates. In many communities the survival rate of trees was observed to be 98-99 percent."

          "In the communities that partner with ATP, people recognize and understand the importance of our trees. The population appreciates the work that ATP does and the mission that our project has been carrying out since 1994," added Community Tree Planting Program manager Anahit Gharibyan. "In addition, local authorities express their appreciation and take responsibility when it comes to developing and beautifying their community territories, as they know that trees will provide a range of economic and environmental benefits."

          ATP participated in a number of ceremonial plantings this spring, including a tree planting with Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobyan at the Tzitzernakaberd Genocide Memorial on April 23, and a planting in the park behind the new Paramaz Avedisian Building on the campus of American University of Armenia.

          The planting at AUA was accomplished with the assistance of staff and students, including representatives from the Acopian Center for the Environment. Twenty-five ninth-grade students and two teachers from School No. 10 also participated in the planting. The school is supported by Ed Avedisian, who is also a benefactor of AUA and ATP. A total of 497 decorative trees and shrubs were planted on the AUA site in April.

          "We have come together for one of the most important actions as part of the Paramaz Avedisian Building project and that is the tree planting and setting of the park territory behind the building. This area was used for over four years as a construction site and now the time has come to decorate and give it a face. This endeavor is essential and it would not be possible without the coordination and valuable assistance from Armenia Tree Project," emphasized construction manager Faraj Yeretsian.

          "We were pleased that the tree planting at AUA united schoolchildren, teachers, university students, and staff. It is noteworthy that the event was undertaken on April 22, which is internationally recognized as Earth Day," added Ms. Gharibyan. "This planting involved the participation of our Community Tree Planting and Environmental Education programs, since our education director Manya Gevorgyan worked closely with the teachers and schoolchildren in advance of the day's planting."

          Many of the AUA volunteers who had never planted a tree before were trained by ATP staff in proper planting techniques. University staff and other volunteers participating in the event were enthusiastic and declared that they were looking forward to coming back to the site next year to observe how well their planted trees had grown, and to enjoy the view of the new green landscape.

          Similar tree plantings were organized by ATP at other institutions, schools, churches, and orphanages in Yerevan and Armenia's regions this spring.

          Several sites that were beautified by ATP this spring include the Institute of Molecular Biology, Mkhitar Sebastasti Education Complex, Nansen Park in Yerevan, Nor Nork Boarding School, and St. Sarkis Church in Yerevan.

          "ATP is proud of its Community Tree Planting Program, since it provides high-quality fruit and decorative trees to rural and urban communities every season. We are also working on a large-scale initiative to plant more than one million reforestation seedlings in the Lori region this year," said Mr. Masarjian. "We will announce our progress in the fall, and we are actively seeking the support of our donors to help ensure the success of this program in our 15th anniversary year."

          Since 1994, Armenia Tree Project has planted and restored more than 3,000,000 trees and created hundreds of jobs for impoverished Armenians in tree-regeneration programs. The organization's three-tiered initiatives are tree planting, community development to reduce poverty and promote self-sufficiency, and environmental education to protect Armenia's precious natural resources.


          Azerbaboon: 9.000 Google hits and counting!


          • #6
            Re: Armenian Nature

            Armenian First Ladies ‘Oppose’ Mining Project

            Rita Sargsyan to the left, Bella Kocharyan to the right

            Armenia’s current and former first ladies have signed a petition against a controversial mining project approved by their husbands, ecologists strongly opposed to its implementation said on Wednesday.
            The country’s leading environment protection groups and other non-governmental organizations have for years been campaigning against plans by the Armenian Copper Program (ACP) company to develop a massive copper and molybdenum deposit in the northern Lori region. The Teghut deposit is estimated to contain 1.6 million tons of copper and about 100,000 tons of molybdenum.

            The project, if implemented, will lead to the destruction of 357 hectares of rich forest, including 128,000 trees. Critics say that would wreak further havoc on Armenia’s green areas that have already shrunk dramatically since the 1990s.

            ACP admits the heavy environmental cost of its plans but says it will be more than offset by 1,400 new jobs which it has pledged to create in the economically depressed area. The Liechtenstein-registered company has also pledged to build new schools and make other investments in the local infrastructure. The project was formally approved in 2007 by then President Robert Kocharian and his government headed by Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian.

            The non-governmental Committee to Protect Teghut launched last month a fresh campaign against the mining project, collecting signatures in support of its stance. It said on Wednesday that a relevant petition addressed to Armenia’s president, prime minister and parliament speaker has already been signed by about 5,000 citizens, among them First Lady Rita Sarkisian and Kocharian’s wife Bella.

            According to Mariam Sukhudian, a member of the committee, the two women agreed to sign the petition as they visited a public park in Yerevan on Tuesday. “We noticed Kocharian’s wife and the current first lady, Rita Sarkisian, there” she told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “One of our girls, Arpine, approached Bella Kocharian. As soon as she learned what the matter is, she took the paper and signed it. Rita said, ‘Is it about that copper-molybdenum thing?’ and signed it too.”

            “We can say that, in a sense, they have joined our movement,” said Sukhudian. “We will scan their signatures and disseminate them through the Internet.”

            Hrayr Savzian, chairman of the Ekodar environment protection group and another committee member, also welcomed the signatures put by the first ladies. “I hope that this will be a subject of conversations at their homes, which is not bad in itself,” he said.

            The Committee to Protect Teghut now plans to showcase that fact during a demonstration in Yerevan scheduled for Friday. “During the June 5 demonstration we will definitely attach their signatures to a separate sheet and carry it with us,” Savzian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

            The current Armenian prime minister, Tigran Sarkisian, appears to be taking the environmentalists’ concerns more seriously, having set up last year a working group tasked with studying the environmental impact of the Teghut project in greater detail. Still, his government has refused to suspend the project pending that study. The Committee to Protect Teghut now intends to take the matter to court.

            The copper field’s exploitation requires at least $260 million worth of investments. The Russian bank VTB agreed last year to lend a corresponding sum to ACP. The global economic crisis appears to have delayed the release of the loan, however. A top ACP executive said earlier this year that the company now expects to launch large-scale open-pit operations at Teghut in 2011.

            Last edited by Federate; 06-04-2009, 10:16 AM.
            Azerbaboon: 9.000 Google hits and counting!


            • #7
              Re: Armenian Nature

              Isn't that why they just planted trees in the previous article?

              On a side note, I always wonder why politicians are angry underhanded individuals.... and then I look at their wives and it all comes to light.
              "Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it." ~Malcolm X


              • #8
                Re: Armenian Nature

                Originally posted by KanadaHye View Post
                On a side note, I always wonder why politicians are angry underhanded individuals.... and then I look at their wives and it all comes to light.
                You are being too harsh


                • #9
                  Re: Armenian Nature

                  Originally posted by meline View Post
                  You are being too harsh

                  Am I?

                  "Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it." ~Malcolm X


                  • #10
                    Re: Armenian Nature

                    Originally posted by KanadaHye View Post
                    Am I?

                    Really KanadaHye? But I see your point... Lol..
                    Հա'յ ժողովուրդ, քո միա'կ բրկութիւնը քո հաւաքական ուժի մէջ է: