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‘Cover Your Noses; Let’s Go to the Wastewater’

On the outskirts of the Nubarashen highway is Yerevan’s infamous prison and 5 residential apartment block.

“You wouldn’t be able to locate our buildings on a map. Even when ordering a Yandex taxi, our building is not visible on the map,” a local resident says.

The building is located only a few meters away from the prison. The main sewage pit lies right under the prison walls; sewer pipes have become worn out over the years, and the pit is now overflowing with wastewater. Sometimes the sewage water level rises to the point where it reaches the main road connecting the prison with the city.

A few people are gathered in the courtyard of the building just below the prison. Upon hearing about the arrival of journalists, their number begins to grow. Some of them want to talk about the neighborhood’s problems, but others are doubtful: “Will it actually change anything if we talk?”

The residents of the Nubarashen district have been seeing a lot of journalists over recent days. But they say there is nothing new about the situation: there was a wave of protest in the neighborhood a few years back, and it too got a lot of media attention. “They came and filled the creek up with soil and slate afterwards.” Shortly after, however, the pipes began leaking again and flushed the soil away.

“Cover your noses, let’s go to the wastewater.” You can feel the awful stench of the dark grey water from a distance. The lightest breeze makes it impossible to breathe, and you are forced to cover your nose.

The smell intensifies in the evening, when it is time for the prisoners and convicts in Nubarashen to shower. The top layer of the water has a whitish color: “Look, it’s soapy water.”

On Tuesday, a small amount of Nubarashen sewage water reached Yerevan’s City Hall: “Those fancily dressed  people in the City Hall were disgusted by it. What about us? Are we not people?” a Nubarashen resident argues.

The behavior of the members of the ruling Republican Party has noticeably angered the locals: “One of them even said that there were pregnant women [in the meeting room] who felt bad because of the smell. Do they think there are no pregnant women in these 5 buildings? And that Mr. Gor Vardanyan… Did he think he was on a movie set? Was he trying to show off his biceps?”

The locals offer that the officials should come to the neighborhood and try to breathe in the stench: “You know when they will come? During election campaigns, that’s when.”

During the last election campaign, an official from the Republican Party admitted that he could feel the stench when passing by the area to go to a friend’s grave: “He said he felt bad and promised to take care of the issue. But no one has done anything thus far.”

Repairing the pipes does not require much money, the locals are convinced. Only a few hundred thousand drams. “We need several plastic pipes; that’s not a big deal. They would have already repaired the pit if they had any desire to. But they don’t. They keep ridding themselves of the issue. They can’t even properly handle such a simple matter. I can’t even begin to imagine what they would do were it a serious problem.”