For the past 30 years, Roza and Janibek Nazaryan have lived in a field that betwixt the Lori villages of Akori and Katchatchkout, not far from the Sanahin Monastery.
Once autumn begins most residents collect their crops growing throughout the Sedvi River basin and leave their summer homes. But the Nazaryans remain by themselves.
The small river flows from a source in the Lalvar mountains. The elderly couple tells me that they’ve heard about plans to construct a hydro-plant on the river.
I meet Zhirayr, another Sedvi resident, who points to a spot on the river some 100 meters from the Nazaryans cabin. It’s where the hydro-plant will be built, he says.
Berj Bojoukyan, who heads the Vanadzor Aarhus Center, told me that the mayors of the two villages conducted hearings on the hydro-plant project submitted by a company called Sedvi Energo last December.
The only ones to show up at the public hearings were the two village mayors, a few members of the two village councils and Sedvi Energo Director Y. Markosyan. Also present was Herkinaz Mkrtchyan, a specialist from the Environmental Testing state agency.
The minutes of the hearings were practically the same; word by word. Director Markosyan spoke about how the hydro-plants would stimulate development in the area and the two village mayors concurred, stressing the number of new jobs that would be created.
The transcripts state that Heriknaz Markosyan talked about the potential environmental risks that such construction would entail, but no specifics are given.
It would appear that the two village mayors were not interested in examining the alleged benefits provided by other hydro-plants in the area before giving their approval to similar ones in their own backyard.
Here, I refer to the Haghpat-1 and Haghpat-2 hydro-plants on the Dsevank River that flows through the villages of Haghpat, Sanahin and Akner. There’s also the plant on the Marts River built by Vanadzor Mayor Samvel Darbinyan and Sergey Lokyan, son of the former Minister of the Environment Davit Lokyan.
Had the two village mayors taken the time to investigate, they would have learnt that after hydro- plants were built on the Marts, the river practically dried up.
Irrigation water once supplied by the Dsevank has disappeared as well and local villagers can now only grow grasses on their fields.
According to Katchatchkout Mayor Mkhitar Tamazyan, Sedvi Energo Ltd. once belonged to Sargis Tamazyan, a former Armenian Minister of the Environment who hails from the village. Allegedly, Tamazyan had financial problems and thus sold the company and the licenses for the Sedvi hydro-plants to Yerevan resident Y. Markosyan.
Tamazyan says the Sedvi plants are on hold because the new owner is in the midst of constructing other hydro-plants elsewhere.
The State Registry shows that Sedvi Energo shareholders include Harutyun Tamazyan (son of former owner Sargis Tamazyan) and former Akori Mayor Kamo Simonyan and his wife Greta Mkrtchyan.
Heriknaz Mkrtchyan, the environmental expert, now says that the hydro-plants planned for the Svedi River will damage the area’s eco-diversity.
“Civic groups should have participated in the public hearings and backed me up. Had they done so, the entire story would have turned out differently,” says Mkrtchyan.