Letter to Minister: Regulate Water Distribution from Argitchi River Giving Priority to Residents' Needs

Letter to Minister: Regulate Water Distribution from Argitchi River Giving Priority to Residents' Needs


EcoLur addressed a letter to RA Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Suren Papikyan and RA First Deputy Environment Minister Vahe Jilavyan. The letter says: "EcoLur" Information NGO and "Martuni Women's Community Council" NGO received an alarm signal about the lack of irrigation water from the residents of Nerkin Getashen community, Gegharkunik Region. Examining the situation on the spot, examining the official documents, they found out the following: over 100 hectares of land in Nerkin Getashen, one of the largest villages in Armenia, have been left without water because of the lack of the irrigation water.

The main source of irrigation for the village is the Argitchi River. Nerkin Getashen solves the problem of irrigating in its 539.18 hectares of land areas making use of Gegharkunik WUC services, as well as the water use permits received by Nerkin Getashen community municipality in 2018 (0.285 million cubic meters from the deep well and  1,814 million cubic meters of water from the Argitchi River).

Interviews with the local residents revealed that in addition to the abovementioned sources, a significant part of the population, about 300 households, caters their irrigation water needs by using self-made systems from the Argitchi River (without proper water use permits), but they mainly remain without water because of the water intake from the river during the irrigation season by Argitchi SHPP and other water users. In other words, an unregulated and chaotic situation of water intake has been formed, which has led to serious social problems and conflicts, which have been exacerbated by the inability of farmers who did not go abroad to work due to COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the residents of Nerkin Getashen, this situation is also conditioned by the destruction of the system and the unfair distribution of water as a result of the incorrect management of their irrigation system by Gegharkunik WUC, which led them to refuse from WUC services.

Irrigation water conflicts have been ongoing since 2012 after the construction of the Argitchi SHPP, which annually takes 50.1 million cubic meters of water with 9527-meter-long pipeline from the Argitchi River leaving little water in the significant part of the river and in the land areas of Madina, Nerkin Getashen and Verin Getashen Communities. These conflicts are resolved not in the legal field, but on the basis of personal agreements between the community-WUC-SHPP administration, which does not yield the desired result, as Argitchi SHPP violates the arrangement by using river water during the irrigation season.

It should be noted that the term of operation of Argitchi SHPP expired on March 21,2017. The study of the official website of RA Environment Ministry by us has shown that to date a new or extended water permit hasn't been provided to the SHPP, and, in fact, the SHPP is operating illegally. Moreover, the permits for the construction and operation of Argitchi SHPP were illegal, as the permits for the construction of the SHPP at the time of the SHPP construction had already lost their legal force, no public hearings were held in the affected communities, consequently the required protocols of the public hearings are missing.

It should be noted that, among other SHPPs built and operated on the rivers flowing into Lake Sevan, Argitchi SHPP violates the requirements of RA Law on Lake Sevan, as the operation of SHPPs destroys the unique and endemic fish world, the ecosystem of Lake Sevan basin is being violated.

Based on the above, we would like to ask to:

• Provide final systematic solutions to the issues raised,

• Stop the illegal activities of Argitchi SHPP,

• Regulate the distribution of water from the Argitchi River, giving priority to the needs of the residents.”

June 25, 2020 at 13:22