YEREVAN (RFE-RL)–Environment Minister Vartan Ayvazian said on Friday that the Armenian government is successfully enforcing a three-year ban on the use of natural Christmas trees which is aimed at shoring up the country’s endangered forests.
Ayvazian cited anecdotal evidence to claim that hardly any tree has been felled and sold in Armenia for the upcoming New Year and Christmas celebrations. "Only last night a small batch of trees was imported from Russia," he told reporters. "But otherwise–as you can see–there are no trees cut and sold in the Republic of Armenia."
Armenian spruces and other pine trees were widely available for sale in Yerevan and other parts of the country until the introduction of the ban in 2002. They have since given way to imported artificial trees.
The Christmas tree ban has done little to stop the continuing shrinkage of the country’s already scarce wooded areas. Environment protection groups warn that if the current trends continue–Armenia could be left without any forests by 2024.