RA Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan has decided to stop the examination of the complaint filed by EcoLur on Astghadzor Community in Gegharkunik Region. The complaint filed to RA Ombudsman in September 2018, which presented the issue of violation of Astghadzor residents’ right to water.
Astghadzor was left without drinking water and irrigation water due to “Infrastructure and Rural Financing Support Program” implemented by “Rural Areas Economic Development Programmes Implementation Unit” (RAED PIU) and due to the water intake permit issued by RA Ministry of Nature Protection to Zolakar community in the amount of 23.1 l/s from four natural springs called "Gran" and "Mets Dzori Tmban Tak".
As a result, the Astghadzor River, which flows into Lake Sevan, has completely dried up, leaving about 4,679 residents of Astghadzor community, who used to make use of the river, without water. Astghadzor residents have to use the water of the wells drilled during the geological studies of uranium raw materials in Armenia during the Soviet years, which is contraindicated for drinking.
RA Human Rights Defender's decision No. 1/8475-18 dated on 11.05.2020 on terminating the examination of the complaint presents a document correspondence with the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia. Thus, the Ministry informed that Zolakar community twice applied to the Ministry for drinking and household water use permits in 2015-2016.
In 2015, Zolakar applied for a water use permit from the spring called "Gran" in the administrative territory of the community with a water volume of 10.8 l/s, whereas in 2016 for drinking and household purposes, a permit for water use N 0003350 with a water volume of 10.8 l/s was issued in 2015in order to reorganize the water intake from four natural springs called “Gran" and “Mets Dzori Tmban Tak" with a total water amount of 23.1 l/s. The ministry also approved the second application.
"The draft was submitted to “Голос Армении” newspaper for public notification on March 24, 2016, providing proper notice. RA Ministry of Environment did not receive any remarks or suggestions. On April 15, 2016, RA Ministry of Environment positively assessed the application for a water use permit from the municipality with a total water supply of 23.1 l/s from four natural springs called "Gran" and "Mets Dzori Tmban Tak".
The Ministry also informed that Zolakar community was provided with water use permits in accordance with the requirements of RA Water Code and the RA Government Decision N218-N dated on March 7, 2003. According to the Ministry, the water use permit provided to Zolakar community of Gegharkunik region of the Republic of Armenia is legal and the process of providing water use permit has been carried out, ensuring all the essential factual and legal bases presented to the adopted administrative act.
In addition, the Ministry noted that Astghadzor Community in Gegharkunik Region has been informed by a number of letters sent by the Ministry in regard with the aforementioned springs that in order to obtain a permit, Astghadzor community, in accordance with the requirements of RA Government Decision N218-N dated on March 7, 2003, may apply to the Ministry of Environment for a water use permit by attaching the documents required by the above-mentioned decision.
According to the Ministry, Astghadzor community has not submitted an application to the Ministry of Environment for obtaining a water use permit in order to obtain a water use permit,” RA Human Rights Defender's decision says.
We would like to note that RA Nature Protection Ministry’s submission of the project to “Голос Армении” newspaper for public notification cannot be considered appropriate, as Astghadzor Community does not receive the newspaper, was not informed and could not send a remark to the Ministry. RA Ministry of Nature Protection, providing water use permit N000078, did not take into account the interests of Astghadzor community residents, violating their right to water.
Third, as a result of the water intake carried out with this water permit, the Astghadzor River dries up completely during the summer, and Astghadzor residents are puzzled in case of which free dlow it is possible for them to be issued a water permit. So they continue to demand that the distribution of water among Astghadzor and Zolakar comunities continue as it was performed before, until Zolakar is given a new water use permit.
In his decision, RA Human Rights Defender suggested: "Thus, in the case of such an arrangement of facts, the methods of challenging the issue raised administratively have been exhausted, and further assessment of the factual circumstances of essential importance for the resolution of the dispute is possible only by court."
As the court, as well as the responsible bodies, refused to consider the issue of violating the right to water in Astghadzor, the residents of Astghadzor community applied to Environmental Public Court. The court, examining the submitted documents and the evidence, the damage to the ecosystem of the Astghadzor River, the impact on Lake Sevan and the difficult social situation created by it, recognized it as an ecological crime. The verdict of Public Environmental Court was sent to RA Government and RA Prosecutor's Office.
12:43 June 01, 2020