11 November 2014, 15:58
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Crowdfunding for the Environment

It is a well-known fact that mining has played an enormous role in Armenia’s history, particularly in the 20th century. Its lands are rich as a source of mineral wealth. However, in the last few decades, the methods being employed to profit off of these natural resources have grown increasingly irresponsible. Some of the consequences are polluted environments, contaminated food, and communities with health risks. In this article, Oscar Alvarado, a Canadian Research Fellow at American University of Armenia, describes for ImYerevan the gravity of the situation and ONEArmenia's current campaign to help relieve some of the pressure.

As with any great problem, the first step to a great solution is knowledge. Scientists in Armenia are beginning to address the issue of irresponsible mining through research. Knowing where and how much contamination is taking place helps to identify high-priority areas and also inform affected citizens of the impacts that they are facing; researchers aim to measure and analyze the health of mining communities, as well as their environments. However, the ability to accurately measure contaminants in air, soil, water and food requires the kind of modern, scientific laboratory equipment that simply doesn’t exist in Armenia. 

Yet.

According to official data there are 19 existing tailing ponds in Armenia. The figure may be higher, possibly up to 25. Many of the tailing ponds are close to inhabited communities.According to official data there are 19 existing tailing ponds in Armenia. The figure may be higher, possibly up to 25. Many of the tailing ponds are close to inhabited communities.

With the help of Armenians, local and abroad, the American University of Armenia’s Center for Responsible Mining has launched a crowdfunding campaign to purchase urgently needed environmental laboratory equipment to properly survey and assess the impacts of mining in Armenia.

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people. While relatively new in Armenia, it has already funded several social and community projects all over the country. Thanks to the know-how and experience of ONEArmenia, the Center for Responsible Mining is bringing together Armenians from all over the world to help protect Armenia’s beautiful natural environment and the local communities that depend on it.

Given the relatively small size of Armenia, it is critical that we preserve the health of its ecosystems and species. These are under constant threat from irresponsible mining practices that do not prevent pollution from spreading to sensitive areas. In cooperation with academia, NGOs, the government and global institutions, the Center for Responsible Mining can lead the way in changing old methods and introducing internationally-recognized best practices to the Armenian mining industry.

Armanis, Lori Marz, Armenia. Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions. It has also been associated with developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes (World Health Organization). Photo: Blacksmith Institute and AUA School of Public HeathArmanis, Lori Marz, Armenia. Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions. It has also been associated with developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes (World Health Organization). Photo: Blacksmith Institute and AUA School of Public Heath
American University’s beautiful Paramaz Avedisyan building, erected in 1991, which houses the Acopian Center for the Environment and the Center for Responsible Mining, critical players in AUA’s campaign.American University’s beautiful Paramaz Avedisyan building, erected in 1991, which houses the Acopian Center for the Environment and the Center for Responsible Mining, critical players in AUA’s campaign.

However, before we can move in this direction, civil society needs to be able to rely on independent environmental monitoring carried out with sophisticated tools that ensure accurate results. This is why the purchase of laboratory equipment is so crucial to getting things underway. Scientists will thus have a better idea of where the greatest environmental and public health risks are located and can share this information with nearby communities. By empowering local citizens with knowledge, they can better manage their health risks while also use scientific evidence when advocating for more responsible mining practices and better laws.

Artsvanik, Kajaran, Armenia. Cow drinking water from at the Artsvanik tailing pond. Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children (World Health Organization). Photo: Nazik Armenakyan, from the project ‘The World’s Richest City’ with Socioscope NGOArtsvanik, Kajaran, Armenia. Cow drinking water from at the Artsvanik tailing pond. Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children (World Health Organization). Photo: Nazik Armenakyan, from the project ‘The World’s Richest City’ with Socioscope NGO

Together we can find broad-based solutions that preserve the health and quality of communities and their environment in Armenia.

Now is the time for you to join us in this cause and help us all take that first step. Please click here to share this important campaign and donate when possible.

 

 

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