Armenia’s Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan promised on Saturday that the government would halt the controversial irrigation project which, if implemented, would divert water from Azat river to 12 villages in Ararat province. Residents of the village of Garni have been fighting against the pipeline construction for years, claiming that the project would cause the river – the main source of Garni’s irrigation and drinking water – to dry up entirely, and that its main intention was to provide Abrahamyan’s agricultural lands in Ararat plain with irrigation water.
Hundreds of Garni villagers again blocked the Garni-Yerevan highway on Saturday morning, demanding that the government cancel the project and remove construction machinery from the Azat river gorge. Karapet Guloyan, the governor of Kotayk province, offered that the demonstrators went with him to the Armenian capital to meet with the head of the government; however, the villagers refused, saying that the Prime Minister could come to Garni himself if he wanted to.
And indeed he did. Abrahamyan arrived in Garni at 4 pm, accompanied by the ministers of agriculture and territorial administration, and the head of state committee of water resources.
First, the government head denied the allegations that he owned agricultural land plots in Ararat province and then admitted that the government was well aware that the project was not without its faults. “If it were flawless, your blocking the road would not have changed anything – the state would have unblocked it. But we’ve come here, which means that we are aware of the shortcomings in the project,” Abrahamyan said.
The Prime Minister then assured the demonstrators that the project would be cancelled and that construction machinery would be withdrawn from the river gorge. “As for the Geghardalich plans, we’ll discuss them with you in the near future,” he added.
The demonstrators demanded that they were presented with official cancellation documents as soon as possible, promising to otherwise resume their protests and to resort to “more drastic measures,” if need be. “We’re fighting for both Azat river and Geghardalich, and if the Geghardalich project is implemented, we will once against rise in protest,” Garni resident Arusyak Ayvazyan told Epress.am.