Residents of Shamlugh, a town close to the Georgian border in Armenia’s northern Lori Province, are complaining that the water flowing from their faucets during the past week has been muddy and undrinkable.
Arev Abelyan, who resides in building #10, said that he and her neighbors have been forced to get eater from a nearby village for drinking and cooking. The bathtub in Anoush Ghorkhmazyan’s apartment was filled with the brown water.
Shamlugh old-timer Zhorik waxed philosophical on the dirty water problem. “The water is bad and flows in a trickle. If we complain will anything change? This is the state of the community,” he said.
Former Shamlugh mayor Samvel Shakhkyan likened the water now flowing from locals faucets to Coca-Cola.
Volodya Toumanyan, one of a group of men sitting in the town square, said that the problem would only be solved if a water cleaning station was built.
In response to the complaints, Shamlugh Water Ltd accountant Anoush Shahkyan said that residents have gotten their just rewards for not paying their water bills.
We tried to talk to Shamlugh Mayor Lendroush Bezhanyan but he wasn’t at his office. His secretary, Seda Barseghyan, told us that the town faces this problem every year in the spring. She said that the matter of building a cleaning station has been discussed on and off since 2005.
When I visited the town’s three reservoirs on the mountain slope overlooking the school, none of the gates were locked. One of the reservoirs was filled with muddy water. There were no flows in the others. School Principal Hovhannes Sokhakyan told me that there used to be a watchman patrolling the reservoirs back in the Soviet era. No one has been guarding the water supply since Armenia gained its independence.
Mayor Bezhanyan telephoned this reporter and explained that the muddy water was due to the snow melt runoff.
“Every year we have a few days of this,” he said, adding that there was no need for a cleaning station.
Bezhanyan has served as Shamlugh mayor since 2002. In all that time, he hasn’t been able to reopen the town kindergarten for the sixty or so children aged three to six.
Neither has the town a cultural center nor library. The buildings once housing the kindergarten and cultural center belong to Serop Der-Boghosian who owns Metal Prince Ltd.
There is no natural gas supply to the town and there are no streetlights. Even the roads leading to the town are in disrepair. The 2013-2016 community development plan calls for the renovation of 5 kilometers of these roads, the installation of streetlights, and the construction of a kindergarten and library.
Work on these projects has yet to begin.
The community’s revenues this year are estimated at 15.9 million AMD. The mayor has allocated 10 million of this for administrative expenditures.
School Principal Sokhakyan is frustrated by the indifference shown by town residents regarding these issues.
Despite these complaints, members of the town community board awarded Mayor Bezhanyan a monetary prize of equal to one month’s salary for a job well done. Currently, the mayor’s monthly salary is 174,000 AMD.