Because Armenia is landlocked and has few energy resources, it must turn to other nations for natural gas and petroleum. Much of these resources used to come from Azerbaijan and Turkey. As a result of bad relations with these neighboring countries, Armenia has had a severe energy shortage, compounded by the fact that the winters of 1996 and 1997 were extremely harsh. Many people had no heating fuel at all and others had just one or two hours of heat and electricity a day. People turned to burning everything they could find. In the cities today, concrete park benches are still missing their wooden seats. In the countryside, forests that used to cover more than 11 percent of the country are now completely devastated, leaving the country with no wood and no forest habitat for wildlife.
In order to provide much-needed energy to most of the country, the state restarted an old, dilapidated nuclear power plant in the northern town of Metzamor. Unfortunately, the power plant was restarted without adequate safety and backup systems. Russia and the United States stepped in to make the power plant safe, but the concern is that it sits on land that is extremely volatile. It is very likely that if an earthquake hits the region, the power plant will collapse. Fearing this, the international community encouraged Armenia to close the power plant by 2004 and search for an alternative energy source.
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