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Results of the “Free Supply of Irrigation Water As A Means For Increasing The Efficiency Of Irrigated Lands’ Farming In RA” Round Table – Seminar, Organized by YSU “Sustainable Development Center” on October 31, 2013

25.07.2014

On October 31, 2013, the YSU “Sustainable Development Center” (SDC), in the meeting hall of the Scientific Council of the YSU Department of Geography and Geology, organized a round table meeting with a goal to explore and discuss the problems of irrigation water consumption.

Among the participants were representatives of the OSCE Yerevan office, non-governmental and research organizations of Armenia (“Association for Sustainable Human Development” Armenian “Aarhus” Center, Aparan “Aarhus” Center, YSU Scientific – Educational Center for Environmental Law, “Ecological Academy” NGO, et al.) and other individuals, as well as employees of YSU departmental and research centers, and students. The meeting was presented by the YSU PR administration.

The topics of the seminar were presented by Mr. Marat Aris Grigoryan, Dean of the YSU Department of Geography and Geology, PhD. The work based on the results of activities implemented by employees and invited experts of the SDC with the support of OSCE Yerevan Office.
The intensive and efficient farming and usage of irrigated land areas in RA is of key importance for poverty reduction, creation of additional job vacancies and restriction of emigration.

At present, the development of agriculture is impeded by numerous problems, of which we specially emphasize the paid provision of irrigation water.
Our explorations in a single community lead to following conclusions. The community under investigation is located in Ararat Marz and possesses 500 hectares of irrigated land area, of which 100 hectares are the auxiliary private territories, while the 400 hectares are areas of farming importance.
Our explorations revealed that about 15% of these areas are not farmed at all, while 20% are being farmed inefficiently and inexpediently. The farmers have no or very small incomes from these areas.

As a taxation, the farmer has to pay 25,000 – 30,000 AMD per hectare of a farming land, depending on the category of the farmed area and the variety of farmed plants. From the total amount, nearly 15,000,000 AMD is being transferred to the community budget. In addition, a subsidy of 22,000,000 AMD is allocated every year from the State budget. Taking into account other tax revenues allocated to the community budget, one can say that the annual community budget is about 40,000,000 AMD.

For a single irrigation of one hectare of the orchard the farmer pays 20,000 AMD, while the charge for irrigation of greens and vegetables is 13,000 AMD. As a result, for irrigation of one hectare the farmer’s annual payment is 80,000 – 100,000 AMD.

The irrigation water is supplied on definite days, in insufficient amounts, and irregularly. The payment usually is demanded in advance, and very frequently the water supply is being ceased in the hottest irrigation season due to non-payments.

The Union of Water Users (UWU) submits to the Government annual reports, according to which the charges for supplied water have not been collected fully, hence the water users have gigantic financial liabilities to the UWU, which will be covered by the means of the State budget. According to our data, the amounts allocated to communities from the State budget as a subsidy, come to 1.0 – 1.7 billion AMD, while the amount allocated to UWU from the State budget against the failed payments, is nearly 1,500,000 – 1,700,000 AMD.

Provided that the irrigation water will be supplied for free, and the duty for irrigated land will be increased from 30,000 to 80,000 AMD, following problems will be solved:
a) Increase in amounts allocated to the community budget, thus eliminating the necessity of subsidy allocation from the State budget. This will lead to lesser corruption risks, since community budget expenditures are controllable and transparent.
b) The increase in duties for irrigated areas will either force a more efficient farming of the land by its owners and leasers, or to deny the ownership and transfer the land to community.
c) The free supply of irrigation water will lead to higher responsibility of community members and governance bodies in efficient consumption of the water. This will eliminate corruption risks, which currently exist in UWU activities.
d) The subsidies allocated to UWU from the State budget will be eliminated.
The abovementioned initiatives will create an opportunity to increase the community budget revenues without subsidies, and to reduce the amount of State budget subsidies for 2.5 – 3.0 billion AMD per year.
Numerous questions were raised after the presentation, along with discussions and other speeches.