Tuesday, 25 September

How small hydroelectric stations may drive a man to murder

"I've come to tell you that I'm going to kill someone," announced Artik resident Suren Sahakyan, the director of Aghats, Ltd., when he visited me on December 3, 2003 . I advised him to go to law enforcement instead, and he said he would inform the National Security Service. What had driven engineer Suren Sahakyan to this state? To make a long story short, the bureaucratic red tape that he has been enduring for five years now.

In 1998 Suren Sahakyan and Jean Davidyan, a candidate of technical science, developed a project to build a series of small hydroelectric stations on water-diversion channels from the Mantash Reservoir. At the suggestion of Masud Keyan, the director of the American PA Consulting Group, Sahakyan worked with specialists Hakob Dikchyan and Albina Tevosyan and US citizen Phillip Hoover to redesign the project in line with international standards.

PA Consulting Group described the result of their work as a "model project" in a memorandum on Armenia 's alternative energy resources, and recommended it to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the World Bank, and the Development Agencies of the European Union and the United States for financing. Offers to finance the project were received from Steklomash OJSC in Artik, and foreign and local businessmen. Land for the project was granted by the communities of Harich and Saralandj, lease agreements were signed and rent was paid. At the same time, Sahakyan and his colleagues had done some development work and accumulated a considerable quantity of building materials and equipment.

But for a license to exploit the channels, written permission was needed from the Hayjermughkoyughi CJSC, a division of the State Committee on Water Resources. To this end, Artik's Mayor's Office began sending petitions and recommendations to the company and other relevant agencies in 1998. According to Sahakyan, executive director A. Ghulyan's approach to negotiations with him and Jean Davidyan was "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."

Tired and frustrated, Sahakyan and a group of Artik businessmen requested an appointment with President Kocharyan. At a meeting arranged on December 8, 2002 while the president was campaigning in the region, the chairman of the State Committee on Water Resources, Gagik Martirosyan, proposed holding a tender for the lease of the water-diversion channels. Odd, because although the rights to about a hundred such channels had been granted, it had never been done through a tender. "The idea of holding a tender was a pretext to avoid solving the problem in the president's presence," Sahakyan says, adding that Kocharyan expressed willingness to take the matter under his control.

"The results of the tender were supposed to be announced on July 1, 2003 . Ghulyan, who was in the US at the time, called the tender commission and told them to declare Yerevan resident Gevorg Paityan the winner, but they chose to postpone the decision until Ghulyan's return. On August 13, 2003 , with Ghulyan's participation, the commission voted four to three to give the rights to Gevorg Paityan, who had neither a project nor any technical parameters to support his proposal," Sahakyan explains.

He maintains that the commission conducted the tender in gross violation of the law and of its own regulations from beginning to end. It didn't discuss his project. It refused to register his numerous complaints and observations. Gevorg Paityan had twice obtained similar permission, without any tender, and now owns two small hydroelectric stations. But Suren Sahakyan has faced so much red tape from the agency headed by Gagik Martirosyan that he's talking about committing murder.

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