The garbage dump for the town of Vanadzor lies within the boundaries of the village of Arjut, population 1,500.
It was there that I met up with Souren Margaryan, a disabled village resident picking his way through a mound of rubbish. The man was looking for something to sell.
“I get a 12,000 AMD monthly pension, but it’s not nearly enough. I come here to the dump looking for something - some glass, bits of metal. The bread is for my chickens. But If I really find the remains of a tasty morsel, then I eat it on the spot,” Souren told me.
Arjut Mayor Vardan Mkrtchyan says that on a daily basis there are five other individuals who visit the dump like Souren. A few down and out folk have even died at the trash dump.
The dump is about one kilometer from the edge of the village. The site isn’t cordoned off, so you’ll come across stray dogs and even village cows and chickens rambling through.
The dump has never been properly maintained. Come a strong wind, and bits of garbage are sent airborne, eventually settling on the village fields.
Mayor Mkrtchyan told me that some 20% of the tillable land isn’t cultivated because of the garbage problem. The polluted parcels are just used for wild grass to grow which is then fed to the livestock.
During the past twenty years the Vanadzor Municipality has failed to tackle the pollution problem. Garbage trucks aren’t washed down and sanitation crews don’t have proper gear to wear.
Mayor Mkrtchyan said that every day some 50-60 trucks unload their garbage at the site. In addition, the trash is transported in open-air trucks. Thus, some of the garbage doesn’t even make it to the site. Some just falls off the back of the trucks onto the Vanadzor-Arjut road.
“At times, I have personally closed off the road and not allowed the garbage trucks to proceed. I have also informed the Vanadzor Municipality and the Lori Regional Governor about the problem,” said Mayor Mkrtchyan.
Poor trash management has negatively impacted the local village environment.
The mayor of Arjut complained that the stench and the burning garbage fumes are driven by the winds right into the village.
“I have often directed people not to burn the trash. The stench is very unpleasant. The situation gets especially unbearable in the summer heat. People have difficulty breathing.”
Mayor Mkrtchyan wasn’t aware that some of the materials, when burnt, are quite unhealthy and even known carcinogens.
The garbage dump also doesn’t allow for development projects in the village.
“There was a plan to investment in the cultivation of berries. They came and tested the soil and water. These checked out fine, but once they saw the garbage dump the investors pulled out,” said the mayor.
Arjut Deputy Mayor Norik Sardaryan says it’s not only reporters who know about the poor condition of the dump. He said that the village was trying to come up with realistic solutions and had gone to various agencies for assistance.
Mr. Sardaryan said that two years ago an individual from Vanadzor agreed to transport the trash after removing anything of value. For this service, he was to pay the municipality 3 million AMD. He added that the Vanadzor government never even used some of the fee to wall off the dump
The dump site belongs to the Vanadzor-Sanmakroum LLC; Edmon Edayan is the director of the firm.
Lyova Melikyan, who heads the Vanadzor Municipality’s Department of Communal Improvement, told me that they constantly monitor the site and clean it once a year. He denied the village mayor’s allegations that dead stray dogs were being dumped there as well.
“We call in the excavator and bury the dogs. I can assure you that the dump will be completely cleaned in a matter of days,” Melikyan said.
I just wonder why the Vanadzor official chose this time to make such pledges regarding the dump’s sanitary condition.
In fact, the law states that sanitary conditions must be monitored on a round-the-clock schedule and steps taken to ensure that violations are corrected.