Residents of the village of Garni with a population of 10,000 are steadfast in not permitting water to be moved from the river that runs past their community, the Azat, through pipes to a few villages in Ararat marz (province) for use as irrigation water. The residents said this to an Epress.am correspondent who went to their village on Thursday.
Representatives of an Armenian hydropower project yesterday morning went to Garni to hold public hearings and present the program to the community; however, the public hearings did not take place because the approximately 300 Garni residents didn't agree to them.
Speaking to Epress.am, the villagers presented the grounds for their complaints. According to them, the program contravenes environmental and social justice norms and is drafted with violations of the law.
Social Justice Issue
Garni residents are convinced the main reason for construction of the water pipe is to support Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan's business. One of the villagers, who wished to remain anonymous, said the mayor of the village of Narek in Ararat marz established a 600-hectare orchard, and the water pipe is constructed to provide cheap irrigation water (without the use of pumps).
"He's not taking [the water] for an Ararat villager but for him. If we knew that people's orchards were going to be irrigated, we'd say, the hell with it. But we know that the decision was made for his property. For his fish farms, his orchards. While our fields — there are about 40 farming households at the river shore… we've all nursed our trees like a child; they'll dry up in a day," he said.
Hamlet Harutyunyan, who established orchards at the river shore, added that apart from those two goals, the prime minister is trying to do one other thing. "He wants to build a hydropower plant. Yes, he'll take cheap water, but he wouldn't assume so many expenses just for that. After all, an approximately 30-km pipe has to be built. This is being done to build a few hydropower plants," he said.
According to the project presented by the Armenian hydropower project representatives, a pipe measuring 820 cm in diameter is to be built along the length of the river, which will transport water for two months in the summer to several villages in Ararat marz. Hamlet Harutyunyan said that the flow of the river is powerful only in the spring, while in the summer, the river carries only 1,200 liters of water per second.
"With a 820 cm-[diameter] pipe, 1,000–1,200 liters will flow; that is, it will lead to the river drying up. And that will lead to the trees growing on the mountains around the river drying up. What will happen to the fish? In this river, there are Beghlu, Karmrakhayt, and Koghak; we pour in Ishkhan. It's obvious, those fish will die," said Harutyunyan.
Garni residents said their community, as well as the village of Goght, oppose the project, and since they're the affected community, the project cannot be implemented.
"When they cut off a branch from a tree, to get warm, when they catch a fish, people are subject to criminal accountability, whereas in this case, a forest will be destroyed, and the fauna of the river," he said.
Hamlet Harutyunyan said that they bid adieu to the 7-person delegation, urging them to retract their decision.
After the Yerevan delegation left, the residents convened a meeting and decided their next steps.
"If the government insists that it will take the water, we've decided to block the touristic road to Garni and Geghard. A Garni native will not stand against anything. Second, we will go to Yerevan by foot. Our neighboring Goght community also will join," said the other villager.
According to him, this project, in fact, should concern also the villagers of Ararat marz, since taken will be the water that goes to Zovashen Lake, which nourishes 12 communities.
"Let [him] take water from Arax [River], put in a few pumps. [He] takes our water, irrigates, then fills Arax, which goes where? To the Turks," said Harutyunyan.