RA Health Ministry's Response to EcoLur's Letter on Problems Arisen Due to Covid-19 in Communities

RA Health Ministry's Response to EcoLur's Letter on Problems Arisen Due to Covid-19 in Communities

In 2020 EcoLur Informational NGO has studied the impact of COVID-19 on 8 communities in Armenia within the framework of "COVID-19: New Challenges in Ecologically Vulnerable Communities" project. On January 15, 2021 EcoLur sent a letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan laying down the problems identified as a result of the implemented works and the proposals aimed at their overcoming.

The letter was responded by RA Health Ministry: Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry Vahe Hakobyan states in Letter No. VH/02.02/1492-21 dated on 05.02.2021:

“Health Ministry continues to post information on COVID-19 epidemic on the official website of Health Ministry, as well as on other information platforms.

It should be noted that the proposals on COVID-19 prevention measures developed by Health Ministry are submitted to the interested structures, including the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure and the local self-government bodies.

Awareness-raising posters were developed by the Ministry, which were also provided to the relevant departments, including the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure.

In the course of 2020, the World Health Organization donated 620 special medical bags equipped with first aid kits to the medical-obstetric centers in RA regions, 1000 glycometers, 1000 boxes of glycometer strips were provided to the institutions providing medical healthcare and service. For the purpose of replenishing the regional medical centers with qualified healthcare personnel, there is a procedure for temporary referral of specialists by the relevant order of Health Minister.

“National Institute of Health after Academician S. Avdalbekyan" CJSC of Health Ministry continuously organizes distance trainings for senior and middle medical workers of medical institutions (including primary health care institutions)."

The letter addressed to the Armenian PM particularly says,

“The studies were carried out in Martuni urban community, Verin and Nerqin Getashen rural communities in Gegharkounik Region, Armavir urban and Taronik rural communities in Armavir Region, Ararat urban and Ararat rural communities in Ararat Region, and Shnogh enlarged community in Lori Region, which were selected as ecologically vulnerable communities.

General Problems

1. Those residents who did not leave for abroad for work mostly remained unemployed; at best, they had temporary jobs on their farms or in construction. The temporary nature of the employment does not contribute to their full participation in the life of the community and remaining in the homeland.

2. Additional costs related to healthcare and education have increased for the population in parallel with the social burden.

3. The volume of work and salaries in different spheres in the communities has reduced.

4. There are insufficient technical means for distance learning in the communities, the distance learning system does not provide sufficient educational quality, psychological difficulties have arisen, the lack of sufficient computer skills is a problem.

5. Environmental problems have become more acute due to the weakening of the activities of the competent bodies.

6. The opportunity to express public opinion on community issues has decreased, as in the current situation it has become impossible to organize a public hearing to find out the opinion of the residents. Moreover, in some communities (Ararat), council meetings have not been held for several months, and important decisions for the community have been postponed.

7. The problem of COVID-19 has been compounded by the socio-economic and demographic consequences of hostilities. Anti-epidemic measures in the communities have significantly weakened. 

Community-specific problems

8. Armavir urban and Taronik rural communities, Armavir Region, being in the immediate area of ​​5-10 km away from the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant, do not have the status of an "affected community", do not have certain privileges that could help solve the new challenges facing the local population. The communities have a water problem due to the decrease in the level of the Ararat artesian basin, which leads to sanitary-epidemiological risks.

9. The enlarged community of Shnogh, Lori Region, being an affected community of Teghut copper and molybdenum mine, is not a beneficiary under soil management contract  PV-376 dated 20.02.2013, so Teghut CJSC has not undertaken any commitments aimed at the socio-economic development of the affected community under the contract. In 2020, 'Teghut Mining' CJSC signed a partnership agreement with Shnogh community municipality worth 140 million AMD. However, problems with chemical pollution in the community area remain unresolved as environmental issues are not included in the target expenditure.

10. The cyanide tailing dump of Ararat Gold Mining Plant is located in the territory of Ararat village, Ararat Region. However, the village is not considered an affected community.

11. Martuni community wastewater treatment plant in Martuni Community, Gegharkounik Region, needs to reprofiling into a biological treatment plant.

13. Verin Getashen and Nerqin Getashen communities, Gegharkunik Region are experiencing a problem with irrigation water, which is connected to "Argitchi" SHPP on the Argitchi River. SHPPs impede the reproduction of endemic species in Lake Sevan.

Taking into account the features of the ecological vulnerability of each community, as well as the generality of the problems that have arisen, we present the following suggestions as a solution, according to the sectors.

Social problems:

1. To establish a program to use the potential of migrant workers returning to Armenia, to bring them out of forced unemployment, to fully involve them in the development of the community.

2. To resume the public discussions on the social-environmental issues in the affected communities as stated in the law, to provide mechanisms for dialogue at the level of people, business and state.

3. To give 25 communities located within 5-10 km radius of the ANPP the status of "ANPP-affected community" with the definition of the privileges arising from it; ensure the constructive cooperation between the ANPP and the communities in the affected area.

4. To ensure the fulfillment of the environmental obligations undertaken by 'Teghut Mining' CJSC under PV-376 soil management contract of Teghut copper and molybdenum mine on 20.02.2013, as well as revise that agreement by investing in socio-economic development commitments, taking into account the findings of the public hearings held in the affected community.

5. To review Annex 3 of PV-376 soil management contract of "GeoProMining Gold" LLC dated on October 22, 2014, to stipulate the obligations of undertaking socio-economic assistance Ararat town and Ararat village. To give Ararat rural community the status of an "affected" community by Ararat Gold Mining Plant.


Healthcare problems

6. To strengthen the capacity of medical facilities in vulnerable communities by equipping them with new equipment in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic with highly qualified medical staff.

7. Continue to provide information on COVID-19, increase social self-awareness among the population, contributing to the formation of a subculture of social responsibility.

8. Increase the involvement of local self-government bodies and non-governmental organizations in the fight against the epidemic.

Environmental problems

9. Taking into account the strategic importance of Lake Sevan for the Republic, to reprofile profile Martuni physical wastewater treatment plant into a biological treatment plant. To provide coastal settlements with sewerage system and mini biological treatment plants.

10. Carry out the connection works of 100-meter-long sewer pipeline required for the connection of Martuni sewerage pipelines of Geghovit Community, Gegharkunik Region.

11. Taking into account the strategic importance of Ararat artesian waters for the country, to limit the issuance of water use permits for the purpose of fish breeding, to be strictly supervise over the rational use of the quantities issued by water use permits, to conserve unused wells, to build Metsamor wastewater treatment plant.

12. To establish strict control over the implementation of all measures laid down in RA legislation aimed at the prevention of atmospheric air pollution in the process of organizing the production of "Araratcement" CJSC, compliance of the riles and norms stipulated in the permit for emission of harmful substances into the atmospheric air.

13. To strengthen state control over the activities of "Hydrocorporation" CJSC for the spawning of endemic fish species from Lake Sevan in the upper reaches of Argitchi River and for the provision of irrigation water to the agricultural lands in the neighboring communities. To ensure compliance with all restrictions on the rational use of environmental and water resources during the operation of "Aghchichi SHPP".

February 08, 2021 at 15:13