Armash IBA is one of the 18 Important Bird Areas (IBA) of Armenia and one of the Caucasus’ richest ornithological hotspot. It is located in the south-western part of Armenia, in the Araks River Valley (Ararat Valley) where the boundaries of Armenia, Turkey, Nakhichevan (an exclave of Azerbaijan), and Iran converge.
It is the richness in the diversity of avian fauna which have brought recognition to Armash as anImportant Bird Area (IBA) with an outstanding grade. The diversity of birds that call this magical place home is impressive with about 220 different species including.
Armash is the only site in Armenia that supports the breeding of the Globally Threatened Species Marbled Teal and White-headed Duck. It plays host to rarities such as Eurasian Spoonbill and the graceful White-tailed Lapwing that are found breeding nowhere else in Armenia. And, moreover, here is the area with favorable conditions for large concentrations of migratory birds that cross the national borders during spring/fall passage.
Due to its extensive wetland area a significant part of Armash IBA is occupied with a huge amount fish ponds each between 11 ha and 95 ha in size. The pools, natural saltmarshes, channel shores, standing fresh waters and artesian springs have turned Armash into a bird paradise.
Unfortunately, during the last years the water resources of the Ararat Valley has been irrationally used and do not recover, so as a result drinking and irrigation water springs in the villages of Ararat province began to dry up.
In 2010 the Government of the Republic of Armenia called for a special commission to study the situation and find reasonable solutions. As a result Armenia’s Nature Protection Ministry has taken steps to save an annual volume of about 11 million cubic meters of artesian water every year. The Ministry has already closed down a number of major illegal artesian wells. But, in any case, these reforms are not enough to solve the actual problem.
The water crisis has already led to drying of many ponds in Armash IBA, which are gradually replaced by territories used for agricultural purposes. In the meantime the fish farming methods and production practices have created at Armash and extremely rare ecosystem and habitat types of high conservation value. It is thanks to this farming methodology that Armash albeit an artificial environment supports thousands of breeding and migratory birds. Nonetheless the water deficiency problem has a strong negative influence on the local environment and, consequently, on the bird population living in this area. Ultimately this may result to disappearance of various Globally Threatened Species such as Marbled Teal.
The Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (ASPB) has raised the national alert by inviting the county's key stakeholders to find effective solutions to revert the trend and change the unsettling circumstances. In close cooperation with the ASPB the US Embassy, the USAID and Nature Protection Ministry have provided experts and engineers to provide solution to this problem currently existing in Armash. As a result of this collaboration several alternative schemes of channeling water to Armash fish ponds have already been identified and proposed.
But for а significant effect more powerful lobbying and means of influencing should be used, such as the direct attention of the governments, international civil society, environmental and conservation conventions, which aim to prevent the further degradation or loss of these ecosystems which undoubtedly play a great international role.