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Sara Petrosyan

Prime Minister’s Directive Hits Home: More Lake Sevan Businesses Sign Trash Hauling Contracts

To collect trash, maintain clean sidewalks, keep the street lights operating, and the other services needed to make the place livable, the town of Sevan in Armenia has five municipal vehicles (3 garbage and 2 dump trucks), one street cleaning water truck, and one crane.

The equipment is operated by the Sevan Communal Enterprise, a not-for-profit arm of the municipality.

Edgar Harutyunyan, who heads the Enterprise, says the newest garbage truck is six years old and that the others date back to the 1980s.

This is the equipment used to remove 20,000 cubic meters of refuse from the town of Sevan and the perimeter of Lake Sevan every year.

This year, the Enterprise was allocated 59 million AMD by the municipality, and it receives another 30 million from trash removal fees. 61 million AMD of the total amount goes to paying Enterprise employees. The Enterprise’s operating budget is now based on the 30 million collected in trash removal fees.

The Enterprise collects residential and commercial refuse, and services the hotels and eateries that line the shore of Lake Sevan.

It has 454 trash collection contracts with businesses in the area, but many are late in paying.

Harutyunyan says revenues would go up by 40 million AMD if all their corporate and individual clients paid on time.

Nevertheless, payment numbers are on the rise. In 2016, the collection rate was 46%. This year, it’s 82.4%.

More companies and business on Lake Sevan’s shores have signed trash collection contracts with the Enterprise this year ever since Prime Minister Karapetyan visited the area in August of this year and voices criticism that only 800 out of 5,800 businesses in Gegharkounik Province had done so.

As of September 1, individual customers had paid 13.980 million AMD in fees out of the 16.874 million forecasted, and companies had paid 5.830 million out of the 7.514 million forecasted for 2017.

Harutyunyan says it’s harder to get individuals to pay what they owe – 200 drams per household resident. He adds that it’s not even worthwhile to take non-payers to court. Even if the courts find in favor of the Enterprise, no one can make the customer pay up if they have no money.

In fact, despite threats to the contrary, the Enterprise rarely sues non-payers or issues fines.

Six dumpsites in Sevan were closed due to the recent “Clean Armenia” program. The trash is now transported to the neighboring village of Chkalovka.

Harutyunyan says that while there’s a specified area for construction waste, residents dump it wherever it’s convenient. Since such dumping takes place at night, it’s hard to know the culprits.

The shores of Lake Sevan are shared by private renters and the Sevan National Park SNCO (State Non-Commercial Organization).

The private business owners are known for being lax regarding keeping their stretch of the shore clean. Maintaining the public beaches is the Park’s responsibility.

Harutyunyan says the Enterprise is merely responsible for carting away the trash already collected in the Park.

As it now stands, there’s no government agency specifically tasked with keeping the shores of Lake Sevan clean. Fines for illegal dumping have been approved, but it’s not clear who will monitor the lakefront and issue the fines.

Volunteers periodically organize clean-ups of public shoreline sites. Plastic bags and bottles make up a large part of the trash that is removed.

Most of the plastic gets dumped along with the household trash at the dump site. Recyclers from Yerevan used to come to Sevan and haul away the plastic. They don’t anymore.

Photos: Narek Aleksanyan

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