Armenia’s Tlik Village: Residents Can Only Dream of Having Drinking Water
There’s a wedding in Tlik, and the 18-household village straddling the border with Turkey in Armenia’s Aragatsotn Province is getting ready to welcome the new bride who hails from a village near Etchmiadzin.
Weddings are a big deal in the village. One of the school teachers says they take place once every twenty years.
Three days ago, Vrezh brought two hundred liters of water by truck to the Yezidi village where residents must buy their drinking water. They haven’t had the luxury of potable water for 24 years.
Hetq first visited Tlik last December, and uncovered a small community seemingly lost in time.
Water for household use and for animals is pumped from the Akhouryan River and collected in a cistern. It’s not the cleanest, but residents say they can’t afford to buy water just to bathe with and wash their clothes.
People pay for the cistern water based on the number of animals they raise.
Khanoum Sloyan has a herd of 400 sheep and pays 13,000 drams a month for the water.
Sloyan and the family moved to Tlik seven years ago from the village of Araks in Armavir Province. While they had potable water there, leasing pastureland for grazing was expensive.
“We relocated to Tlik for the animals. Pastureland back there was expensive. It’s now 300,000 drams for one hectare,” Sloyan says.
There’s a one-ton water tank in her yard. The woman hopes that her new home will one day have water.
Even the village school must purchase its water. A red pail full of water sits on a ping-pong table placed in the hall. The pupils tell me that they do not plan to leave Tlik, even if there’s no water supply.
Tlik Mayor Slavik Saloyan says it’s not correct to say that the village hasn’t had potable water since 1993. He claims that Tlik saw the last of its drinking water in 2006, and that it received water every three months before that.
“This place had 100 households. If there hasn’t been water since 1993, couldn’t one of them have gotten up and demanded water?” the mayor said.
The mayor says he doesn’t know what happened to the pipe that used to transport potable water from the Talin system to Tlik.
Saloyan says that the Aragatsotn Provincial Governor has promised to resolve the water issue by 2018, by drilling an artesian well.
He doesn’t believe that the lack of drinking water is causing many to leave the village.
“Back then, we had the same conditions. People lived and created. Today, they don’t. As a mayor, I’ve done things with money out of my own pocket. I’ve installed street lights. Not one resident ever came to see what I was doing,” says Mayor Saloyan.
Tlik’s former mayor moved to Russia. When I ask Saloyan if he’ll ever move, he replies after a few seconds of silence. “It’s possible I’ll go one day, who knows? My relatives are calling me from there. But I just don’t like staying there.”
The village also lacks natural gas, and a convenience store.
The mayor argues that it doesn’t make sense to bring in gas for just 18 households. He believes that once the water issue is solved, the population will increase and that only then will it be feasible to bring in natural gas for cooking and heating.
To buy what they need, residents must now travel twelve kilometers to the village of Aragatsavan.
The Tlik Municipality employs four – the mayor, secretary, accountant, and club director. The village’s annual budget is AMD 5 million ($10,350).
Built in 1947, the municipal building hasn’t been renovated since.
The only items inside hinting at modernity are the leather chair and a new desk.
Opposite the mayor’s office are the locked doors of the library. It’s been closed for the past eight years.
The club entrance is nearby. It’s mostly used for village celebrations and remains locked otherwise. Colorful balloons can be seen through the glass at the top of the doors.
In reply to my inquiry, sent to the Aragatsotn Provincial Administration, about Tlik’s potable water issue and when it might be resolved, Governor Ashot Simonyan said that the best option was to drill a deep well. Money for the project would be discussed during the drafting of the 2018 estimated state budget.
Simonyan added that it had been suggested to the Tlik mayor to make the first move and launch a geological examination of the aquifer and to file for a water usage permit.
Photos: Hakob Poghosyan