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Kristine Aghalaryan

Saravan Hydroelectric Station Built Without Village Municipality's Permission. Villagers' Complaints are Fruitless

The Nazaryan family has replaced its old windows with newer double-glazed windows so, once and for all, they can block the noise caused by the small hydroelectric station next to them. The couple's small child is put to sleep in the room at the back so he doesn't wake from the noise. Hayk says that the new windows didn't solve the problem; the noise can still be heard, especially when all 3 generators of the station are in operation.

Firma G.A.Kh. Ltd., founded by Gagik Khachatryan and Aram Azatyan, has built the small Saravan Hydroelectric Station having an installed capacity of 2470 kW on the Darb Stream of Arpa River in Saravan village, Vayots Dzor. However, the village mayor didn't sign any documents approving the hydroelectric station, and the station wasn't built on the site initially designated for it, which was outside the village and which wouldn't endanger the villagers' health.

Saravan village mayor Simon Babayan says he returned from his vacation and only then saw that the station was built somewhere other than was agreed — on an individual owner's land.

"It's an arbitrary construction," he says, adding that there's been a lot of drama connected to the station. "They've been hit with an administrative fine, but they neither comply nor do anything. We write the administrative fine and send it — they don't reply to the letters and don't accept them."

The land where the hydro plant is currently stationed is immediately adjacent to the residential area of the village, and the noise from the plant is so loud that residents were forced to complain to the president of the country. Gagik Khachatryan, one of the owners, assured the villagers that he'll install double-glazed windows on the hydro plant building and the noise won't bother them, but the noise didn't disappear even after the new windows were installed. And it's been this way for over a year.

The hydro plant has been operational since summer of last year, and employees on several occasions have cut the villagers' irrigation water. "Last year there was a problem, and I went with my car to the [water] source. We put a water meter there, stamped it that there shouldn't be more than this much water consumed, and this is how the problem was solved," says the community's leading specialist Razmik Manukyan.

But the problem hasn't been solved: this year villagers didn't get irrigation water during the season, and the river has become parched, since the hydro plant has consumed the water. Upon hearing residents' complaints, the Vayots Dzor division of the RA Ministry of Nature Protection's National Environmental Inspectorate intervened. Department chief Vahik Grigoryan informed Hetq that due to the complaints he went to the site and discovered violations, and for not meeting the appropriate environmental standards he fined the hydro plant 150,000 AMD (about $368 USD). "Several times, occasionally on the complaints of the community leader and of the residents, we went to the hydro plant, and each time we issued different types of cautions," he said.

However, problems still persist. A part of the hydro plant's pipeline passes through land owned by villagers. Initially, the landowners weren't compensated and only after residents complained did they get trivial financial compensation — 5,000 to 20,000 AMD (about $12 to $49). "If they leased a similar area even in Yerevan or somewhere else, definitely the amount wouldn't be less than 100,000 AMD [about $245]; especially since they are making profit from it," says leading specialist Razmik Asatryan.

The village mayor, Babayan, is sure that the servitude agreement was signed with several exceptions. "That which was supposed to transfer, to smooth, [in fact] ruined the paths through the fields and didn't repair them."

"A basic thing that we're saying: at least let them provide nighttime lighting for the village — they don't want to do that either," complains Razmik. "You've put this huge thing in the village — shouldn't you help villagers with anything?"

The village mayor has yet to sign the legal act permitting the hydro plant's operations. A few times they wrote administrative fines and sent them, but the letters were returned. And in answering the phone, one of the hydro plant owners, Khachatryan, always says he's not in the country.

"I appealed to the regional governor in writing; because of this the urban development inspectorate head was replaced. In short, lots of problems; I haven't signed the acts and [the hydro plant] continues to operate; it doesn't have a certificate. I haven't even signed the completion act. I can't understand what its fate will be," says the mayor.

This isn't Khachatryan's only hydro plant: he has another one in Vardahovit; another in Syunik; while in Goghtanik, another Vayots Dzor village, construction work is being completed. However, Saravan residents say that Khachatryan has promised to move the plant. But he has yet to fulfill his promise. As for how dangerous the noise is for village residents, no state inspectorate has checked.

P.S. In Goghtanik, hydro plant employees worked for several months but haven't received their pay. Khachatryan informed Hetq that problems arose with the director and employees will definitely be paid. We will monitor the situation.