Mid-April, CNF’s Armenia national coordinator Arman Vermishyan and I set off for a closer look at some of the Armenian protected areas where we are already working or are planning to work. Our dual objective was to assess their problems and potential, and to scout out the Armenian leg of our September donor trip.
This is second in a series of several reports on our two-day trip. Read part 1→
Dilijan National Park
Having begun our day with the drive from Yerevan to Lake Sevan, Arman and I now head on to our main destination for the day.
Leaving Sevan we climb still further and after a short drive reach the 2,115 meter (6,950 feet) mountain pass to Dilijan—or rather the narrow tunnel that cuts under the pass. From here, streams and rivers flow north into the Kura river basin that forms the central valley of eastern Georgia, and from there east through Azerbaijan and into the Caspian Sea.
This pass is not only the watershed but the boundary of an abrupt and remarkable climate divide. On the southern, Sevan side of the pass, despite the immense body of water that is the lake, the dryer climate and rocky landscape that characterizes much of Armenia prevails. Through the tunnel and we are immediately in another world of moist, mountain forests—the world of Dilijan National Park.
In Dilijan Arman wants to show me Goshi lake—and we set out on a walk that highlights both the potential and challenges of bringing eco-tourism to the South Caucasus.
We begin this walk at Goshi village, home to Goshavank, another of Armenia’s marvelous monasteries, and the attraction that we hope will someday bring eco-tourists here to enjoy a combined nature/culture experience. Rural life in Armenia is rugged, and while Goshi village is no exception, at first blush its simple structures in the surrounding forest beauty appear pristine. But Armenia’s national garbage and waste problem quickly shows itself, and the first impression is tarnished.
Out of the village and into the forest, the sense of pristine beauty is quickly restored. Our luck with the weather continues, and the warm, sunny spring afternoon highlights fields and forest floors carpeted with wildflowers. Goshi lake itself is a small jewel set in the lovely forest. Two local fisherman are after crayfish, but we are otherwise alone. The 1.5 hour walk up to the lake is only moderately difficult, a gentle climb punctuated by a few steeper segments. The circuit makes a perfectly manageable excursion for a slightly out of shape sixty year old man.
Again at the lake, however, our otherwise gorgeous, tranquil moment is marred by litter, highlighting the overall management problem facing Dilijan National Park that needs urgent attention. These beautiful forests and the impressive diversity of life that they house —from bears and wolves to lynx and eagles—must find the right balance with the inhabitants of the town they surround. As Arman and I start on the road back to Yerevan, I am more determined than ever to advance our main business in Armenia this week—launching a planning process that will seek to strike this balance. Read part 3 →
David Morrison is Executive Director of the Caucasus Nature Fund
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