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Ani Hovhannisyan

Directives but No Funding: Prime Minister’s “Clean Armenia” Project Stumbles

Hetq continues its examination of the 264 directives issued by Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan in 2017, looking to see how many have actually been implemented and to what degree.

Researching Karapetyan’s “Clean Armenia” project directive, designed to make Armenia more attractive for foreign investment, I received a call from Iranian-Armenian businessman Edvin Khodawerdi.

He wanted to get into the fish farming business in Armenia’s Armavir Province. Khodawerdi told us that a friend had established a fish farm near the village of Jrarbi, and that outside investment was needed to expand an improve the operation. He had taken some potential investors to the fish farm, but says they were turned off by the trash lining the street.

Khodawerdi, who moved to Armenia in 2003 to pursue business interests, says his friend paid to have the road cleaned several times. Mounds of trash quickly reappeared.

“Artesian well and rainwater mixes with the garbage and then empties into the lake where the fish are raised. We and our children eat that fish. It’s an embarrassment. Polluted fish can’t be exported,” says Khodawerdi.

The dump stretches for a half kilometer, from the gates of the Araks Poultry Factory to the fish ponds.

The Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development, due to working on the “Clean Armenia” project, knows the trash dump exists. At its closest point, the dump lies fifty meters from the fish farm. (The site has been labelled Jrarbi 1, but it actually falls within the boundaries of Jrarat)

Ministry data shows that neither the local government nor a private company is hauling the trash away on an organized basis. Nevertheless, residents continue to dump trash at the site, which isn’t fenced off. The refuse is neither burned or buried.  

The trash has accumulated to a point 1.5 meters above the ground. The nearest homes are 300 meters away. The ministry says the garbage dump’s negative impact on the local environment is high.

Clicking on the map will bring you to a more detailed view

It was on April 20, 2017 that Prime Minister Karapetyan fired off a directive to Minister of Territorial Administration and Development Davit Lokyan to work with community heads and provincial governors and include trash collection and hygiene measures in all local and provincial programs. Karapetyan gave Lokyan a one-month deadline, telling him to make sure that the work was closely monitored.

Later that year, on August 4, Karapetyan visited Armavir Province and was told by Governor Ashot Ghahramanyan that 130 of the 171 trash dumps that had been registered in the province as part of the “Clean Armenia” project had to be cleaned.

An October 5, 2017 post appearing on the government’s website stated that 130 dumps were cleaned and 125 closed and that talks were underway to expand the list of those companies available to collect garbage in the communities and to raise garbage removal fee collection rates.

If 125 garbage dumps were cleaned in Armavir Province, why was the Jrarat site, said to pose a high environmental risk, overlooked?

Karineh Danielyan, who heads the Department of Urban Construction of the Armavir Provincial Administration, says Jrarat is one of the two dumps in the province that have grown so huge over the years that community resources are insufficient to clean them up and close them.

In 2017, the national government allocated AMD 10.905 million to nine of Armenia’s provincial administrations to tackle their most immediate issues.

Attached to that decision was a rider allocating 60,000 drams to the Armavir Administration to draft a plan of action to close the dump.

The action plan has been drafted but the government has yet released the funds it promised to clean the site.

Narineh Avetyan, who heads the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Development’s Department of Territorial Investment Policy and Programs, told Hetq that funding will probably go through during the first half of 2018, but that no certain date could be given.

While Prime Minister Karapetyan may have ordered his underlings to “clean” Armenia, a high-risk trash dump hasn’t been cleaned due to a lack of state funding.

Video and photo by Saro Baghdasaryan