Nature protection and subsoil issues are more than actual in Armenia, and it is no coincidence that the main provisions regulating these spheres are stipulated by the Constitution. Hence, let us try to understand what approach is taken towards those spheres in the Draft Constitution put to referendum on December 6.
Article 10 of the new Draft Constitution stipulates that “The subsoil and water resources are the exclusive property of the State”. But this formulation does not mean that private companies cannot extract benefits and minerals from the subsoil and from water resources that are state property. It means that this formulation is more declarative in nature and will not result in any change.
According to Article 10 of the current Constitution, “The state shall ensure the protection and reproduction of the environment and the reasonable utilization of natural resources”. However, Article 12 of the new draft of the Constitution stipulates that “the State promotes environmental protection, improvement and recovery, the reasonable utilization of natural resources”. In other words, the state does not ensure any more, it only promotes, which allows to be exempt from responsibility.
Article 31 of the current Constitution stipulates that “The right to property shall not be exercised to cause damage to the environment”. However, this provision is not present in the draft, which can be a basis for new land occupations, deforestation and other damage to the environment. And this may become entirely legal.
Moreover, the current Constitution stipulates that “Everyone shall have the right to live in an environment favorable for his/her health and well-being and shall be obliged to protect and improve it in person or jointly with others”. However, the draft includes only the provision related to the person’s obligation, and the right to live in an environment favorable for the health and well-being has been removed. This means that the state waives the responsibility to ensure the rights of citizens to live in a clean environment in this case as well.