In 2021, together with our Armenian partners, the Center for Community Mobilization and Support (CCMS) and EcoLur continued to map pollution in the Armenian regions of Tumanyan and Stepanavan, an activity which was been going on since 2018. In a comprehensive study covering four years, we followed, in particular, the presence of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants. We analyzed not only environmental samples such as soil, dust, or foodstuffs but also urine and hair samples taken directly from residents in the local community.
In addition to monitoring the levels of pollutants in the environment and the organisms of the locals, we were also interested in how they themselves perceive the connection between the state of the environment and their health. We asked them about this through a questionnaire survey. In both studies, particularly worrying results were found in the group of children and adolescents under 18 years. In this group, the presence of heavy metals was found at higher levels, and at the same time, cardiovascular diseases or digestive problems were frequently found, which may be associated with environmental contamination.
Based on the mapping of environmental pollution in the mining regions of Tumanyan and Stepanavan in the years 2018–2021 (in English and Russian) and the assessment of the health status of the inhabitants of these regions, we have prepared a comprehensive package of recommendations for improving the situation. It was introduced to representatives of local communities. We placed special emphasis on systematic monitoring of environmental pollution, regular assessment of the health status of local communities, and increasing state support for the affected municipalities and their inhabitants. We are also advocating a gradual transition to more sustainable ways of developing Armenia's industrial areas.
“We communicate with local institutions based on hard data, which we use to present our proposals for improving the situation in the region. We would like to continue to use the experience we have gained in the mining regions of Lori province in Armenia with field surveys and awareness campaigns. Therefore, we have decided to expand our activities to new locations in Kotayk, Aragatsotn, and Gegharkunik provinces. This is because these local communities face similar problems but lack the knowledge and tools to enforce their right to a clean and healthy environment,” is how the plans project coordinator for Arnika, Valeriya Grechko, outlines the situation.
Therefore, together with our partners CCMS and EcoLur, we will continue to pursue the impacts of industrial and mining activities on Armenia's regions, particularly seeking to complement hard data on pollution levels. At the same time, we will support local communities in defending their right to a clean environment. Together with them, we will make sure that the issue of pollution does not fade away.