Social polarization is deepening in Teghout settlement, Lori Region, Armenia. A number of Teghout residents raise the issue of deepening social, environmental and health issues.
On February 28, 2022, the press conference of Teghout residents Martin Shakhkyan, Mher Melkonyan, Kamo Hobosyan, Armen Mkrtumyan and human rights activist, President of "Center for Community Consolidation and Support" NGO Oleg Dulgaryan was held in the course of “Citizen's Voice" program on "Citizen's Voice" media platform.
Martin Shakhkyan mentioned that the activity of "Teghout" CJSC has brought the local residents to the brink of collapse. "After the revolution in 2018, there was an agreement that the locals would be provided with jobs, but the process showed that this is not the case. Then social problems emerged, people were emigrating," he said.
Mher Melkonyan mentioned that the alternative program undertaken by him years ago is no longer profitable today. "I started gardening in 2017, I created raspberry orchards, but due to dust and pollution of the Shnogh River, where mine and tailings waste was dumped, my garden dried up. I watered it for two years with water from the Shnogh mountains, then there was a problem with the amount of water, as it was not enough, the orchard started suffering. I watered it with the water of Shnogh river, two years later the garden dried up, out of 100% only 20% remained,” he said.
Touching upon the opportunities of alternative development of Teghout, Kamo Hobosyan mentioned that one of them is tourism. Teghut is rich in monuments of architectural significance. Teghout as a settlement has a very old history dating back to 4-5 thousand years. Evidence has been found during excavations of tombs with a history of 4700 years.
There is also a problem of restoring those architectural gems," he said.
Armen Mkrtumyan, one of the speakers at the press conference, responded to the observation that during the meeting of Teghout residents with Lori Regional Head Aram Khachatryan, the possibilities of solving the listed problems were not discussed. "We were promised a trilateral meeting - Teghout residents, governor, company. The meeting did not take place. We met separately. There is no result. They say at every meeting that it will be resolved, but we do not see that solution," he said. According to Armen Mkrtumyan, the problem of the damage caused to the health of the residents is added to the issue of jobs. "We gave samples. My 3 underage children were found to have more than 10 percent arsenic," he said.
Oleg Dulgaryan mentioned that Czech "Arnika" Chemical Safety NGO conducted research on the impact of mining on human health and the environment in 2021. The results of the analysis of samples taken from Teghout copper-molybdenum mine and Shnogh and Teghut settlements of Shnogh enlarged community in Lori Region under the influence of Teghout tailing dump have caused great concern to the locals.
Thus, in all the soil samples, the concentrations of arsenic (As), copper (Cu), nickel (Ni), and chromium (Cr) exceeded the maximum permissible concentrations according to Armenian standards and in the case of copper exceeded the Czech, Dutch, and French limits for heavy metal content in the soil.
An increased content of arsenic and chromium (10 and 41 mg/kg, respectively), as well as nickel (38 mg/kg), copper (216 mg/kg), and zinc (101 mg/kg), was determined in river sediments flowing directly from the tailings pond. High levels of copper (617 mg/kg), molybdenum (88 mg/kg), zinc (55 mg/kg), and chromium (20 mg/kg) were found in the lower sediments of the river flowing near the mine.
Oleg Dulgaryan noted that the causal link between environmental pollution and the deterioration of human health should be seriously studied. "Meanwhile, companies are questioning the results of the research. There is a signal, let them prove that it is not so. It is not the citizen who shall prove, but the company that does not cause the damage. There are environmental, social and health problems in all communities. It is impossible to have an environmental problem in that community, not to have a health problem, and vice versa," he said.
Speaking about the introduction of alternative programs in the settlement, Oleg Dulgaryan mentioned that it is necessary to conduct surveys among different focus groups. Oleg Dulgaryan also stressed that the state, in its turn, should establish specific programs in the settlement, which include components of alternative socio-economic development.
February 28, 2022 at 20:11