One of the main objectives of the UNECE-WHO/Europe Protocol on Water and Health is the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation to everyone, with special consideration to ensure equitable access to these services for all members of the population.
Three critical factors in ensuring equitable access to water and sanitation are: reducing geographical disparities, overcoming the barriers faced by vulnerable groups, and addressing affordability concerns. Equitable Access Score-card, а self-evaluation analytical tool, has been developed under the Protocol on Water and Health to help Governments to establish a baseline measure of the equity of access to water and sanitation, identify related priorities and discuss further actions to be taken.
Armenia announced its intention to apply the Equitable Access Score-card at the national level during the seventh meeting of the Working Group on Water and Health in November 2014.
Objectives of the self-assessment of the situation of equitable access to water and sanitation in Armenia
- Achieve a better understanding of the situation and challenges related to equitable access to water and sanitation to facilitate the identification and prioritization of problems to be considered for the setting of targets under the Protocol;
- Identify relevant stakeholders and create links with them;
- Raise awareness among stakeholders on equity issues;
- Develop a comprehensive overview of the existing policy measures to address inequities in access to water and sanitation.
The project duration was 12 months and accomplished in October 2016.
The launching workshop for ensuring the early involvement of different stakeholders and explaining the rationale, objectives, process and expected outcomes of the self-assessment exercise was organized on 15 December 2015, back to back with a consultation meeting on small scale water supply and sanitation systems and a meeting of the Steering Committee of EUWI NPD. This workshop helped to identify additional stakeholders that later were involved in the exercise.
The “findings workshop” to present interim results, gather additional information, identify reform options and discuss possible recommendations was held on 7-8 July 2016.
Following the first workshop, UNECE and the main national stakeholders constituted a Project Team, consisting of national consultants with expertise and experience in the main fields covered by the Protocol on Water and Health, including a representative of the NGO “Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment (AWHHE)”, and supported by an international consultant appointed by UNECE and a UNECE staff member. This team compiled the information needed and produced the drafts of the situation analysis and Score-card in Armenian and English which were then considered by the State Committee of Water Economy of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Armenia.
At the second workshop Armenia announced its intention to develop an action plan on ensuring access to water supply and sanitation to be approved by the government and beneficiary ministries.
Environmental pollution due to heavy metals is a serious and widespread problem in the republics of the former Soviet Union (FSU). In Armenia, relatively little has been done to accurately assess these concerns. Information exchange on ongoing policy discussions needs to be extended.
There are several investigations around heavy metal pollution in Armenia, which show the noticeable level of heavy metal pollution in soil, atmosphere and watersheds and also the influence of heavy metals on the human health, in particular children. Regulations designed to protect Armenia’s environment exist but have been largely ignored both before and after Armenian independence. The scarcity of the data hampers an accurate inventory assessment and does not provide reliable environmental data sets that are necessary for determining the environmental impact. Analyses of soils in some areas of Yerevan, for example, indicate high concentrations of lead and cadmium, which exceed permissible levels by more than 100 times.
Trace metals are known to cause a wide range of adverse health effects because metals do not break down, are excreted very slowly, and accumulate in the body. Exposure to pollutant trace metals can cause many ailments including dermatitis, cardiovascular diseases, central nervous system disorders, lung, kidney and liver damage, birth defects, and cancer. Mercury, lead and cadmium are dangerous neurotoxins, interfering with the brain and nervous system. Exposure can be particularly hazardous for pregnant women and small children. Even in low doses, trace metals may affect a child’s development, delaying walking and talking, shortening attention span and causing learning disabilities.
Unfortunately, there is low awareness among the general population on the impact of heavy metal contamination on human health. The concern of the decision-makers and the civil society groups over environmental threats is inadequate.
Overall goal: Promote national policy that can reduce environmental and health threat due to toxic metals
Objective: Promote civic engagement in the national policy targets aimed at reducing harm caused by toxic metals.
The project promotes sustainable production and consumption, and contributes to the global efforts aimed at the elimination of the products containing toxic metals by targeting relevant national policies, increasing stake-holder awareness on exposure to hazardous metals, particularly for vulnerable groups. It promotes involvement of the civil society in the decision-making process as a prerequisite for effective SAICM implementation in Armenia.
The present report summarizes the results of the two year project 2013-2015, implemented by AWHHE NGO entitled “Through Toxic-Free Products to Healthy Generation”and funded by Marisla Foundation and Global Greengrants Fund.
The project was designed to promote civic engagement in the national policy targets aimed at reducing harm caused by toxic metals by targeting relevant national policies, increasing stake-holder awareness on exposure to hazardous metals.
To reach the objectives a working group on heavy metals was created from representatives of national environmental NGOs, academy institution and CSOs. The working group conducted number of workshops, exchange meetings and a Round Table discussion in order to address the environmental and health risks related to mercury, cadmium and lead pollution, as well as of the E-waste management problem in the country.
AWHHE lobbying efforts have contributed to the advancement of the ratification process of the Protocol on Heavy Metals: Armenia has already developed the National Action Plan on ratification of and implementation of obligations within the frame of the Protocol to be submitted to all the ministries.
AWHHE participated in the international initiative lead by Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP) contributing to the national recommendations (a resulting leaflet was developed and shared with GAELP).
AWHHE has been involved in the process for the Minamata Convention on mercury participating in the International Negotiation Committees (INC4 and INC5) and the preceding EECCA regional meetings (in Lodz/Poland, and Brno/ Chezh Republic) as well as at the Diplomatic Conference for the Minamata Convention in Japan. AWHHE became member of the National Committee on Minamata Convention in Armenia representing the civil society sector. This is the official recognition of AWHHE’s lobbying efforts and expertise towards Armenia’s ratification process. As a member of this Committee, AWHHE has a stronger position to use the outcomes of this project for protection of the rights of populations at risk. This should be done, inter alia, through improvements in national legislation for advancement of the “polluter pays” principle. The project results will be considered in the national inventory of mercury sources which is currently being implemented by the Ministry of Nature Protection.
A desk review study was conducted and stakeholder consultations were held with key agencies, Institutions and Focal Points of chemical Conventions on existing national legislation in Armenia on toxic chemicals in products including electronics, paint, batteries and toys.
As a result of the advocacy and awareness-raising activities in the frame of a multi-partner project led by AWHHE in 2013, Armenia issued Government Decree No. 278-N, 2014, Approving Technical Regulation on Safety of Toys in line with the EU Toy Safety Directive (Directive 2009/48/EC). This decree which entered into force on 1 March 2015, approves the country’s technical regulation on safety requirements for toys as well as labeling and requirements for conformity certification procedures. The technical regulation applies to all toys intended for children under 14 years of age for the purpose of play.
The Regional Workshop entitled “SAICM – a global international initiative for promoting and developing chemical safety goals” organized by AWHHE in Yerevan helped share the experiences and results of the projects implemented in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia. The Workshop was a unique opportunity for joining efforts in promoting environmental decision-making, including the issues of chemical safety in particular in frame of IPEN membership collaboration, as all invited organization from EECCA countries are active members of IPEN network coordinated by ECO Accord Russia.
AWHHE developed several letters and appeals to the Government, the Minister of the Nature Protection, to support the ratification of the Minamata Convention by Armenia, to ratify the Protocol on Heavy Metals and to approve the national Law on Chemicals. The issue was presented and widely discussed in media.
AWHHE conducted soil sampling from identified sites of Yerevan, which was analyzed by the Center for Ecological and Noosphere Studies of RA National Academy of Sciences. The results showed that some areas of the central part of the city are highly polluted. The data supplemented the mapping work carried out in 2013-2015 on heavy metals pollution in Yerevan.
AWHHE created, printed and disseminated several information materials related to mercury and lead issue, conducted a press conferences highlighting the results of the implemented project and finally shared the results and findings with the colleagues from the international networks.
The possible next steps may include activities related to implementation of suggested recommendations for the national policy improvement; development a strong national SAICM implementation strategy; implement the pilot projects on environmental and health risk assessment implementation; sharing of lessons learnt with concerned stakeholders and partners, as well as long-term activities such as scaling-up the communications campaign with dissemination of the information materials; fundraising efforts to continue scientific research on health and environmental impact of heavy metals; implement the pilot projects on environmental and health risk assessment.
Thus, the project helped bring the issue of heavy metals, particularly mercury, to the top of the national chemicals agenda in Armenia. It also helped further develop and strengthen AWHHE partnerships with IPEN by joining efforts with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Counterpart International and Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG).
Regional workshop: “SAICM – a global international treaty for promoting and developing chemical safety goals”
The project is designed to address the lack of access to safe drinking water in the village of Ditak (Ararat region).
Drinking water supply system in Ditak was constructed in 1969, currently the network is demolished and water loss reaches 80%. Though the village is located at 16 km from the capital, it is geographically isolated. The territory of the village is 217 ha. The homesteads of some households (about 15 ha) are bogged as during the irrigation season water of the canal pours into those plots. Another 15-20 ha are salty plots. In summer with increasing water consumption, the pipe pressure reduces allowing polluted groundwater to penetrate into the system which adversely affects water quality.
The overall goal is to improve access to safe drinking water for the 230 families (households) of Ditak village through rehabilitation of drinking water supply system and community involvement in the management of drinking water system.
A solution to this problem is (a) the rehabilitation of the old water system with increased access to safe drinking water, (b) stakeholder involvement in the development and implementation of the Water Safety Plan, and (c) increased community awareness of health risks associated with unsafe drinking water.
The project duration is one year.
Project duration: 6 months
Financial and other support: OSCE office in Yerevan
- Investigate agricultural plots (soil and grown products) in rural communities on the matter of contamination by pesticides;
- Contribute to health risk reduction related to pesticide usage by strengthening the capacity of rural communities.
Odzun and Gargar in Lori marz, Partizak in Aragatsotn marz, Achajur in Tavush marz and Vardenik in Gegharkunik marz. These villages have a range of different agricultural activities starting from potato growing to small family plots for various crops, vegetables and fruit. The important common characteristic of the five villages is proximity to a current or ex-storage of banned and obsolete pesticides.
The project activities:
- sampling of water, soil and selected products in the villages and laboratory analysis;
- survey on predominant practices and knowledge to identify the level of exposure to pesticides and related health and environmental risks;
- and awareness raising of health and environmental risks of pesticides.
The survey was conducted among the population of Partizak, Achajur, Vardenik, Odzun and Gargar communities (180 people) with the help of a pre-designed questionnaire. AWHHE also conducted monitoring of former pesticide storage areas. Soil sampling was taken from the obsolete pesticide stores, as well of crops grown in the vicinity of these storage sites (a total of 30 samples). To analyze for the content of residues of organochlorine substances, the samples were sent to the Analytical Laboratory of the Waste Research Center SNCO of the Ministry of Nature Protection. Laboratory studies have shown that the samples taken from the former pesticide storage area of Vardenik and its surroundings present the highest risk to human health and the environment among all the samples taken from other storage areas.
Meeting with administration of Achajur village, Tavush marz and sampling
Odzun village, Lori marz: old pesticide storage building
Gargar village, Lori marz: sampling and awareness raising among farmers
Partizak village, Aragatsotn marz: sampling and meeting with village mayor
Vardenik village, Gegharkunik marz: sampling next to the old demolished storage of pesticides
- Project kick off meeting and Field trip in Estonia
- Development of methodological modules for outdoor study program on local environmental problems
- Training for teachers “How to teach environmental sustainability outdoors”
- Student essays competition and implementation of best ideas
- Outdoor environmental program in 5 regional schools
- Project final seminar in Yerevan
- Project management and expertise
Project Summary and Essay Contest Winners’ Awards Ceremony
Yerevan, 12 September, 2014