In 2014 with the loan funds of the World Bank RA State Committee on Water Industry initiated the implementation of Qaghtsrashen gravity irrigation system project. This project was opposed by Garni Community residents in Kotayq Region and environmentalists. The project plans to factually irrigate 387 ha of land areas in 13 communities in Ararat with the water in the Azat River and to save electricity expenses. The river will have 850 l/s environmental flow left.
The risks of the amended project of Qaghtsrashen gravity irrigation system are as follows:
• The riverbed of the Azat River will get dry because of not having water in a section of about 6 km, from Azat Reservoir to Hatsavan pumping station and Garni Gorge will become a desert in this area.
• Azat Reservoir, which irrigated 7100 ha of area, will become less full.
• Social tension will emerge and the level of poverty will get higher.
• Not full Azat Reservoir will cause additional water intake from Lake Sevan.
• Measures aimed at mitigating the negative impact of climate change can't be taken.
• The landscape of Garni Gorge, which attracts tourists, will be changed.
• Negative impact will emerge on Khosrov Forest State Reserve, especiialy in the bordering zone of the reserve, where the Azat River is the natural border of the reserve.
• Azat Gorge will continue being a tourism zone.
The amended project of Qaghtsrashen gravity irrigation system violates the following 'green' rights:
• VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO LIVE IN HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT - People will be deprived of water, living, while air temperature will increase.
• VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO CHOOSE ONE'S OWN ACTIVITIES - obstacles to agriculture and tourism development.
• VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO PARTICIPATION IN DECISION-MAKING PROCESS - the positive opinion to the Qaghtsrashen gravity irrigation system project was issued without taking into consideration the opinions of Garni residents, while the amended project hasn't undergone any expert assessment at all and public discussions haven't been organized.
• VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO ACCESS TO INFORMATION - Qaghtsrashen gravity irrigation system project is being implemented without holding public discussions, though the project amendment required both new expert assessment and notification and holding public discussions.
• VIOLATION OF ACCESS TO NATURAL RESOURCES AND VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO SUSTAINABLE USE – PRESERVATION OF WATER, SOIL, FORESTS, FLORA AND FAUNA, ECOSYSTEMS AND LANDSCAPES - Article 7 of Armenian Independence Declaration “The national wealth of the Republic of Armenia - the land, the earth's crust, airspace, water, and other natural resources, as well as economic and intellectual, cultural capabilities are the property of its people.”
• VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO DAMAGES – In case Azat reservoir is not full, 7100 ha of land area will remain arid. No compensation is designed for the owners of these land areas.
• VIOLATION OF RIGHT TO PROTECTION – Pressure has been exercised on Garni activists, threats have been voiced.
The following actions have been carried out for the protection of residents' rights:
• Increase in awareness of green rights among the public sector by EcoLur Informational NGO carried out regularly since 2014,
• Legal consultation,
• Signature collection for numerous letter-complaints addressed to RA President, Prime Minister, RA Nature Protection Ministry, State Committee on Water Industry and World Bank,
• Meetings and discussions have been held between RA Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan, representatives of World Bank, experts, Kotayq Regional Head, RA Nature Protection Ministry, Project administration and Garni residents and civil society representatives on the Qaghtsrashen project,
• Numerous protest demonstrations in 2015-2016,
• Publicizing the problem, involvement of mass media, preparation and dissemination of press releases.
• The water intake section Qaghtsrashen gravity irrigation system project was changed – taking it away from the area of 'Symphony of Stones' monument of nature and resort zone,
• In 2017 the project avoided a part of the land areas owned by Garni residents,
• Inter-household irrigation network in Garni community should be completely rehabilitated with the funding of the Eurasian Bank, as well as the 6-kilometer-long section of the canal supplying water to the village,
• The fight is not inactive. Risks of Azat riverbed to be dried out, Azat reservoir being not full and 7100 ha of land areas to be arid, as well as deterioration of climate conditions, activation of desertification processes in the area of 6 km from Azat reservoir to water intake section, biodiversity elimination, haven't been abolished.
Bodies in charge of this project:
RA State Committee of Water Industry
RA Nature Protection Ministry
RA Territorial Administration and Development Ministry
RA Agriculture Ministry
RA Economic Development and Investment Ministry
Local self-government body
20:31 March 30, 2018