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Arapi: A Perpetual Disaster Zoner

“I don’t hope for anything anymore; neither from the authorities nor anyone, really,” 73-year-old Garnik tells us after welcoming us at his house in the village of Arapi.

The man has lived in Arapi his entire life; the 1988 earthquake caused huge landslides in the village, and Mr. Garnik’s house is located right in the active landslide zone. The cracks in the walls of the house caused by the landslide have been growing larger and larger over the years; the house is unbearably damp due to water accumulated in the foundation.

The villager has lost all hope in the acting government but says he does not blame the village administration either for the lack of help: “How would they be able to help me if they are not given from the above?” He claims that he has the physical strength to fix the walls of the house himself, but does not have the funds to. “My wife and I are pensioners; the two of us get a total of [$127] a month. I can’t afford repairing the house with that money.”

According to the 73-year-old, the majority of the villagers live in houses with similar or even worse conditions. He takes us for a walk around the village and points to the rows of dilapidated and abandoned houses: “A single elderly woman lives in this one,” “The owner of this house has left to live with his son in Moscow.”

Deputy village head Avetik Poleyan: “[The annual] Arapi budget, including the overall cost of the subsidy, is about 40 million drams. We spend this money on partial road repairs, night lighting… The landslides go back to the 70s… The issue has yet to be dealt with.”

The landslide zone covers a rather large area, posing a potentially disastrous threat to nearly 150 families. “I married into a native family 28 years ago and have since been living in dilapidated house,” Anzhela Aloyan says.

The woman earns 70 000 drams a month working as a dishwasher: “I once paid 80 000 to have a small part of the house repaired; but then the landslide intensified, and the cracks reappeared.”

The cracks in the villagers’ houses vary in size, ranging from 2cm to as large as 4cm. “The outside of the house is completely destroyed, as you can see. But let me show you the inside… There are mushrooms growing there; I’m not even sure whether they are edible or not… The kids’ covers, their pillows and mattresses… Everything is damp and moldy,” Zoya Rashoyan complains.

The locals began building houses in Arapi one after another about 40 years ago, without having proper knowledge of the area or the dangers it carried. “If we knew about the landslide zone, we would have never wasted so much energy and resources on doomed houses.”

The Japanese government has for the past three years been carrying out a special landslide stabilization program. The newly installed pumps and pipes, however, have yet to notably help  the situation. The villagers do not believe that the Japanese will be able to save Arapi. “We’ll just go on living in fear,” they say.