Victoria Burnazyan, EcoLur
The fields in Artashar Community, Armavir Region, are almost derelict. Most locals don’t cultivate their own land areas, but rent land areas from neighboring regions, as their own are not cultivable. 252 ha out of 374 ha community plough lands are salt-affected (see photos).
“Salt has come out to the surface, people saw but get no harvest. People rent land areas from different places and cultivate them in order to be able to earn their living. More than 100 households now have loan debts,” said Artashar Rural Municipality Accountant Julieta Sargsyan in her interview to EcoLur.
Parsam Mkhitaryan is one of the few people who try to cultivate land in his native village. Out of 2 ha land area he cultivates only one, the other is completely salt-affected. “Fifteen years ago people could get much harvest, but now salt has affected everywhere. This phenomenon has a long story: in the past salinization was removed through drainages, water and acid thus making lands here fertile, but now the same story,” said Parsam Mkhitaryan, “our situation is very hard: I’m almost 75 years old, but have to work in the fields, as there is no other mean for living. If the state helps peasants a little bit, improve the situation, everything will be good.” Though Artashar Villagers don’t cultivate the land areas they privatized, they have to pay a land tax. We asked villagers whether they knew they were privatizing salt-affected soils. As it tuned out they knew, but hoped the drainage system will operate and make their lands cultivable again.
The population in Artashar mainly deals with agriculture and cattle breeding: the village has no other working places, but the school and rural municipality. In the village with 274 households 18 people are employed at the school and 7 – at the rural municipality.
Twelve communities in Armavir Region have the same fate as Artashar. Approximately 5000 ha land in the region is salt-affected, while some territories undergo double salinization processes.
The main reason for soil salinization is high level of underground waters. The communities in Armavir Region with salt-affected land areas are located in sub-Aras zubzone where water is high. When water evaporates, salt remains in soil. Besides, after spring snow melting water raises thus forming more and more swamps in the village. Almost 60% of Artashar is covered with swamps. This year in April-May swamps have so raised that covered the path leading to the village school and resulted in increase in mosquitoes.
“The main reason is non-operation of collector-drainage systems, particularly that of the closed network in the region. We have about 282 km of open drainage system, which is cleaned once three years due to state funding. The problem that worries us most is cleaning the closed drainage network which is completely clogged. We have 280 km of closed drainage system. If open drainage systems are cleaned once three years, cleaning closed drainage with great efforts was introduced in Millennium Challenges Account. We have presented this situation to the government, particularly to the Ministry of Agriculture and they try to work out a mechanism enabling desalination,” said Artur Ayvazyan, Head of Agriculture and Nature Protection Department of Armavir Regional Municipality in his interview with “EcoLur”.
To great happiness of Armavir residents this year Millennium Challenges Account has assumed to repair the open drainage system in Armavir, and the civil works will last only one year. Only after renovating the open drainage system, they will proceed to cleaning and renovating the closed drainage system.
Despite works conducted Artur Ayvazyan says a new canal must be constructed for complete cleaning the salt-affected soil. When EcoLur asked when the new canal will be constructed, Head of Agriculture and Nature Protection Department said, “When the government will allocate funds, it is a governmental issue.”
August 18, 2010