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Garni Residents Threaten to Leave Yerevan Without Drinking Water (Video)

Dozens of residents of the village of Garni blocked on Friday morning the Garni-Yerevan highway to protest against the implementation of a controversial irrigation project which envisages water transfers from Azat River to 12 villages in Ararat province. As a result of a previous demonstration, construction equipment had been removed from the Azat River gorge; however, for several days now, according to the protesters, construction of water pipes has resumed in the gorge, while the number of machinery had doubled.

Today the protesters threatened to keep the highway blocked so long as the government does not cancel the project and halt construction. “We demand that the projects related to Gehardalich and Azat River are officially cancelled. Otherwise, we won't leave here and will continue to block the road. We don't even want officials to come here; we don't want to see their faces. They just have to cancel these projects,” villager Arusyak Ayvazyan said.

Another protester, Zohrab Sedrakyan, warned that if their demands were not met, the villagers would “resort to drastic measures,” blocking the supply of Yerevan's drinking water. “Garni does not even have normal drinking or irrigation water. Some of our orchards have dried up due to the lack of water, and they want to transfer the water to create new ones. Should Garni villagers get angry… We'll blow up the pipes that supply [Yerevan] with drinking water. This shows that the people mean nothing [to the government], that there is no democracy, and that we actually have an authoritarian government.”

Kotayk Regional police chief Laert Grigoryan tried to negotiate with the protesters, suggesting that they temporarily unblocked the highway and let the waiting cars pass. The proposal, however, was rejected by the villagers who said they would not open the road for even 10 minutes and assured that they would not leave until the issue was resolved. As a result, many tourists had to continue their way to the Garni temple on foot.