S.O.S Sevan Initiative
S.O.S Sevan Initiative has addressed an open letter to Armenian PM Nikol PAshinyan presented the corruption risks in the water sector, which are the real causes of the additional water intake from Lake Sevan. The open letter by S.O.S Sevan Initiative says,
‘On initiating process of reforms by RA Government in water management sector
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
Water management sector has serious problems, where one of the most serious ones is corruption in this sector. ‘If there is water mafia, I think it exists here. We should detect who they are,’ Water Committee Chair Inessa Gabayan said at the discussion of the bill at National Assembly on 28 August.
Starting from 2008, the Water Committee has applied to the Armenian Government 5 times with an initiative of additional water intake from Lake Sevan reasoning it with the water deficit for agricultural land areas. In 2018, the Water Committee proposed to carry out additional water intake of 40 million cum besides the statutory 170 million cum. As the Committee had represented, if this water amount wasn’t ensured, 55,000 farming households in Ararat Valley would be left without water.
In case the corruption is eliminated in the water management sector, there will be alternative options for the irrigation of Ararat Valley without using the additional water from Lake Sevan.
Under the Water Committee, most of the water intake in Ararat Valley has been carried out by fish farms – 1,100 million cum per year. This is when the maximum permissible water intake by the fish farms shouldn’t exceed 720 million cum per year. As a result of exceeding the water intake at such volumes, the groundwater of Ararat Valley and a part of deep wells ensuring irrigation have dried out. The Sevjur River, which partially gets its water supply from groundwater springs, has also dried out and irrigates 2000 ha of soil instead of 6000 ha. For this very reason, Lower Hrazdan irrigation aqueduct takes 80 million cum water out of Lake Sevan instead of previous 5-10 million cum.
1. “Shadow” water use must be examined and appraised, compare the water access between large landowners and medium and small landowners (farming households).
2. To examine to what extent the loan funds have been used effectively aimed at the improvement of irrigation systems and the decrease in losses in the irrigation systems.
3. According to the conclusion of the USAID-funded “Clean Energy and Water” project, the excessive water intake by the fish farms in Ararat Valley has led to the disturbance of water balance and caused dry-out of groundwater springs. The overexploitation of water by fish farms has been supported with the water use permits issued by the Nature Protection Ministry for the development of fish farms. In this regard, the disaster in Ararat Valley should be considered as an environmental farm, to determine people responsible and solve this matter in court, to review water use permits issued to those fish farms overexploiting groundwater springs, to close those wells which disturb groundwater balance and establish new conditions for fish farms and irrigation.
4. In 2016, “Qaghtsrashen Gravity Irrigation System” project was implemented with the loan funds of the World Bank, according to which the water of the Azat River must be directed for the irrigation of 1232 ha land areas in Ararat Region. The residents of Garni Village have protested against this project many times assuring that the objective of the project is the irrigation of new land areas in Ararat Region mostly owned by Ex PM Hovik Abrahamyan. Azat Reservoir has been constructed for the purpose of lessening the burden of irrigation in Ararat Valley. It is necessary to examine the corruption risks of the Qaghtsrashen project, whether the loan funds have actually directed for the irrigation of officials’ land areas, whether the objective of the Qaghtsrashen project is the redistribution of the water for the sake of the interests of tycoons rather than farmers, which use Azat Reservoir, whether the right to fair access to water has been violated?
5. It is planned to direct 250 million cum water to Lake Sevan through Kechout reservoir from the Arpa and Yeghegis Rivers through Arpa-Sevan tunnel. Around 11.8 billion AMD has been spent on the rehabilitation of the tunnel by Abu-Dhabi Fund with the co-funding of the Armenian Government. “Arpa-Sevan” OJSC hadn’t performed its obligations, so the Arpa-Sevan tunnel wasn’t put into operation with its all potential in 2017. The company governing “Arpa-Sevan” OJSC should be accountable before the government and the society: what the funds have been spent on, what the extent of the performed works is, what the obstacles are, how the construction materials have been used and where the construction materials of “Vardenik”, “Yeghegis-1” have been obtained from, which are owned by RA National Assembly MP Hakob Hakobyan, who is simultaneously the owner of “Arpa-Sevan” OJSC.
6. Around 1.645 million AMD has been received from the additionally produced electricity as a result of the additional water intake from Lake Sevan. We are proposing the government to urgently present a project on the reconstruction of the irrigation systems getting supply from Lake Sevan for the purpose of decreasing water losses.
7. To examine water outlets from Azat, Aparan, Marmarik and Akhuryan reservoirs, Lake Arpi, what kind of needs these water outlets serve (agricultural, energetic etc), whether they comply with water management plans and the provisions of RA Water Code.
8. To examine the state of existing reservoirs in terms of water losses and initiate rehabilitation works.
9. To monitor the objects having been constructed illegally on the shore of Lake Sevan, as there is a threat that their owners (mainly current and ex-top officials, RA National Assembly MPs) are hindering the increase in Lake Sevan level in all possible manners.
10. To examine the Armenian legislation, as it has many loopholes and is partially tailored.
11. To make reforms in the Armenian legislation: though it is stated that RA Water Code is made compliant with the EU Water Framework Directive, it actually doesn’t comply with the reality and refers only to the component of water economy, i.e. the component of water resource, but only partially.”
18:15 September 03, 2018