The development of fish-farming business in Ararat Valley has led to the desertification in Ararat Valley and the deterioration of the social state over the recent 15 years. As a result of the overexploitation of the artesian basin water in Ararat Valley, naturally flowing wells have been deprived of water, yield levels have reduced and the mineralization of water has increased, land areas have got superhumid, residential areas have been waterlogged, land areas – salinated, agriculture-decreased, and cost of electricity because of pumping – increased. These problems are available in around 30 communities in Ararat Valley.
The groundwater intake in Ararat Valley exceeds the volume set by RA Law 'On National Water Program' because of irrigation and fish farming, 1.1 billion cum per year and makes up 1.5 billion cum per year. Under Water Committee of RA Ministry for Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources, over recent 15 years, the water intake through deep wells in Ararat Valley has made up around 55 cum per second, which exceeded the average permissible water amount by approximately 21 cum per second or 650 million cum per year.
At the end of 2017, RA Nature Protection Ministry registered 239 fish farms in Ararat Valley, which make use of 584 deep wells. Out of these fish farms, only 124 operate, while there are 250 deep wells in non-operating business entities, where free and aimless water yield in 86 fish farms make up 152 l/s. According to the Water Committee, the water intake by fish farms made up 35 cum/s or 1100 million cum per year in the case when it shouldn't have exceeded 12 cum per second. Large fish farms have water usage permits starting from 850 l/s up to 1500 l/s. There is water in Ararat Valley, where the largest share is taken by fish farms and then flow to the Aras through drainage systems.
Fish-farms in Ararat Region
The local residents having deprived of naturally flowing wells because of the decrease in water horizons have to consume electricity over recent 10 years to operate pumps and to operate the wells so as to have irrigation water.
' We have so much water if they want they can pump it and give to Sevan: but it flows through channels to Araks and then to Turkey,' the residents say.
RA Nature Protection and Soil Inspection Body has commenced inspections in large fish farms operating in Ararat Valley. Upon the Inspection's invitation, the representatives of EcoLur and Armenian Environmental Front also participated on public grounds. 'Fish Gold' LLC, where inspections are also carried out in its fish farm, didn't allow to enter the area of the fish farm. 'We know there is disease spread in the nearby fish farms, so we try to have anyone enter the area,' 'Fish Gold' LLC Financial Director Arsham Tevosyan said.
Fish farm of 'Fish Gold' LLC
'Fish Gold' LLC Financial Director doesn't see any conflict with land users, as the land users take water flowing out of the fish farm with pumps and carry out irrigation. Nevertheless, the residents of the communities having fish farms say something completely else.
Sayat Nova Community, Ararat Region:
- As soon as the lakes appeared, water decreased, there is no irrigation water at all. In all land areas, there is only alfalfa growing or canes: there is no water.
- In the past when the artesian well was opened, we used to water at least 3 streets with this water, now there is absolutely no water. There is alfalfa in my land area, but it is getting dry.
- My cousin has paid US $ 35,000 for a house in Masis. The water has decreased so much that it resulted in the cracks of the house.
Hovtashat Community residents, Ararat Region:
- Whoever had land areas near the lake, sold to the company owning this lake, as the land areas get dump and start waterlogging, it gets both saline and dry. If the land areas in Ararat Valley are not watered, then these land areas must be watered for 10 years to get rid of the salt.
- A dozen people deprive 5000-6000 people of water. Our village is not the only one, our neighboring villages share the same destiny.
It should be mentioned that the fish farms in Ararat Valley haven't undergone environmental impact assessment procedures. Under the Armenian legislation, fish farms annually producing 100 tons of fish and over, deals with fish processing and occupying an area of 1500 sq.m and over, is subject to environmental impact assessment. The only fish farm having undergone environmental impact assessment in Armenia is the fish farm in Lake Sevan breeding fish in cage nets together with its industrial infrastructures.
Drinking water is also pumped, which used to flow naturally in the past. People drink artesian water, which, actually, is not for drinking. 'It would be good if our drinking water is checked. It is not processed with chlorine, we drink it and don't know its quality, to what extent it is harmful or safe. We have to drink it as there is no other water available,' the residents said.'
Hovtashat Community Head Hovik Tadevosyan
Hovtashat Community Head Hovik Tadevosyan accuses not the fish farms of the arising water problems, but bodies having issued water usage permits. When constructing a fish farm the opinion of the community is not asked and social programs are not implemented. In reply to the question whether there are no changes after the closedown of the wells by Nature Protection Ministry, both Hovtashat and Sayat Nova residents gave the same answer that the wells having no water had been closed. You know how the wells are closed: there was a guy – Brilliant Armen, who operated artesian wells and there is water for around 6 months, then it got dry then he was taking water out of the well from the other side and so on. Now, these dry artesian wells are closed with concrete. Whatever is shown on TV about the absence of water is a lie, there is water. Just count how many artesian wells produce liters of water per second. All this water gets mixed with Sevan water, which flows to the Zangu and then to Turkey.'
The residents have different solutions to this problem:
Closedown of fish farms,
Operation of new deep wells.
Use of fish-farm water for irrigation.
19:22 August 15, 2018