Independent experts have arrived in Armenia to examine the complaint lodged by the residents of Astghadzor community, Gegharkounik Region, to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). They had meetings with the stakeholders, particularly the residents of Astghadzor community and NGOs raising their problems – EcoLur Informational NGO and Martuni Women’s Community Council NGO.
In October 2018, EcoLur sent the complaint letter of 40 residents of Astghadzor community, Gegharkounik Region, to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Human Rights Defender protesting against “Infrastructure and Rural Finance Support Programme” implemented with IFAD’s loan funds. In 2016, the water of Astghadzor river basin was directed to Zolaqar Village, Gegharkounik Region in the frames Republic of Armenia Infrastructure and Rural Finance Support Programme (IRFSP). As a result, the residents of Astghadzor community, who also used to use the water of the Astghadzor River, were left without water.
In the course of the meeting with EcoLur, the residents of Astghadzor community presented their expectations from the meetings with IFAD experts. The residents had informed the IFAD experts that the former authorities committed manipulations for the implementation of “Infrastructure and Rural Finance Support Programme”.
In 2014 RA Health Ministry issued an opinion that the drinking water in Zolaqar village has qualitative deviations, which served as a basis for the provision of additional water to Zolaqar within the IFAD project. Nevertheless, after the approval of the project before the project implementation the Health Ministry issued opinions in 2015, 2016 and 2017 saying there are no deviations. As the documents show, Zolaqar and Astghadzor villages made use of Astghadzor River in the total amount of 135 lps water intake before the project implementation.
In 2018, Astghadzor resident Vardan Grigoryan received the response of the Environmental Protection Ministry, which says that the water intake provided to Zolawar Village increased in 2016 at the expense of the springs called “Gran” and “Mets Dzori Tmban Tak”. Moreover, if the water intake in 2015 made up 10.8 lps, in 2016 it made up 23.1 lps. It should be mentioned that water intake of 10.8 lps was carried out only from “Gran” spring, which is located in the administrative area of Zolaqar Village, while the water permit issued in 2016 water intake was carried out from “Mets Dzori Tmban Tak” spring, which supplied water to the Astghadzor River. As a result, the river was deprived of its water, which is directed to Zolaqar Vilalge leaving Astghadzor village without water.
Water permits and the opinions issued by the Health Ministry on the water quality served as a basis that Gegharkounik Regional Municipality, in its, turn applied to RAED PIU in 2015 so as Zolaqar water supply reconstruction project was included in “Infrastructure and Rural Finance Support Programme” implemented with IFAD’s loan funds.
The residents of Astghadzor community submitted the available documents to the IFAD independent experts and theirs concerns about the programme funded by the IFAD.
“The experts outlined that the water spring is located in the administrative area of Zolaqar community and most probably the public hearings were not held in Astghadzor because of this reason. The right of Astghadzor residents to water has been violated, while RA Nature Protection Ministry issued water use permit for Zolaqar water without taking our interests into account,” Vardan Grigoryan said.
The Chair of Martuni Women’s Community Council NGO Anahit Gevorgyan also gave her comments, as she also had a meeting with the IFAD experts: “I said that the actions of the tycoons in the region have no limits, there is impact on different communities, arbitrary decisions have been taken. I mentioned that Zolaqar was supported by one tycoon who had his role in the construction of this aqueduct,” she said.
16:08 August 07, 2019