ArmInfo. The Armenian government will be consistent in its fight against illegal deforestation, Minister of the Nature Protection Erik Grigoryan said on July 10, introducing the draft amendments in the Criminal Code and in a package of related laws aimed at toughening measures for illegal deforestation. It should be noted that the country's parliament agreed with the legislative initiative of the government, having adopted the package in the second and final reading.
The Minister urged the population and business from today to think about the use of alternative energy sources. "If someone thinks that the government will give up his intentions in a year, then he is mistaken in this. Our forest protection policy is designed for a long period of time. I urge the population and business to abandon the use of firewood for heating, and more actively begin to use alternative and renewable energy sources ", Minister said, adding that new proposals from the MPs were not received in the second reading.
A day earlier, presenting the document in the first reading, Erik Grigoryan noted that the draft was developed jointly by the Ministry of Nature Protection, the Special Investigation Service and the Investigative Committee. It is aimed at reducing the level of illegal deforestation and toughening measures of responsibility. The current articles of the Criminal Code, according to the minister, do not cover all the existing risks, which appear not only in the process of illegal forest cutting in order to generate personal income, but also transportation and sale. Taking into account the available data and the current situation, an attempt is made to completely cover all the gaps in the country's legislation, and to bring the responsibility measures in line with the policy of the Ministry of Nature Protection to prevent illegal deforestation.
Currently, Erik Grigoryan continued, over 50% of all criminal cases related to offenses in the field of ecology relate to illegal cutting of forests. It is envisaged, in particular, to double the rate of penalties in the first case of cutting, and if the offense is repeated during the year, to bring violators to criminal responsibility. It is also planned to sharply increase the penalty rate for the killing of the Caucasian leopard, which will be 100 million drams instead of the current rate of 3 million drams. The minister reported that currently 8-12 individuals of the Caucasian leopard are recorded, the year of which is celebrated in Armenia in 2019.
The minister also reported that implementation of a program of reforms related to the country's forest resources is being discussed in Armenia. For a long time, according to him, forestry in the country has been adversely affected, and there are areas where the forest has degraded in recent years. According to him, the goals of this program are very large and ambitious. "The time has come for the forests to return what they gave to Armenia and the whole world. The time has come for our actions not to be linear and affect the sphere of legislative and legal changes, as well as the psychology of the people," the minister noted. Erik Grigoryan said that the ministry is holding a wide range of discussions around forest reforms, which is attended by representatives of academy and representatives of international organizations. He also noted the importance of the participation of the diaspora in this matter. He said that opportunities will be created so that the citizens of Armenia, living both in the country and abroad, have the opportunity to contribute to the work on the protection of forests. The program budget is 16 million euros. The program, implemented by the Ministry of Nature Protection of Armenia in cooperation with the UNDP and the German embassy, has two goals: to create a stable working environment, including monitoring systems that facilitate management planning, and also to carry out demonstration works. As part of the program, it is planned to introduce modern IT technologies, drone technologies, retraining of personnel and other tasks into the forestry sector. To recall, according to the Investigative Committee, over the last year, 300 criminal cases were initiated in connection with which 100 persons were charged. In 2015, 18 similar criminal cases were initiated, and in 2016 - only 6.