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Community public debate in Mets Ayrum over land-use change for tailing dump construction

On February 12, 2015 a public debate was organized in Mets Ayrum of Lori region on the initiative of the head of the community, the City Council and residents. The participants were representatives of the national and local media, Hakob Sanasaryan, president of “Armenia’s Greens Union” NGO, activists of Pan-Armenian Environmental Front, coordinator of Alaverdi Aarhus Centre and Gagik Shahnazaryan, representative of “Akhtala OPC”. The tailing dumps of the Akhtala Combine are in visibly outrageous and extremely dangerous condition and it’s already long time are not subject to operation.
By this reasoning yet in December, 2014 the “Akhtala

Ore Processing Combine” has proposed to the Government to provide 40 hectares of land, which is in fact the continuation of “Nahatak” tailing dam’s valley. A part of the proposed land belongs to Tchotchkan and the other part to Mets Ayrum communities.

The mentioned lands are lands of agricultural importance: pastures, shrubberies, thorny shrubs. The local council in Tchotchkan has already decided to change land-use of lands from agricultural to industrial (Aarhus Center has send information request aiming to get acquainted with details), and in January 29, at the local council’s meeting in Mets Ayrum that issue caused an outcry, as the local council presented the residents unawareness on the issue.

During the mentioned period the community residents and the council members have been in active touch with the Aarhus Center, received information about issues concerning them. With Oleg Dulgaryan, president of “Community Support and Development” NGO, who is a resident of the given community and member of the council, were prepared and distributed leaflets among the population. The local society has lack of information, is not properly informed of the ongoing process.

Although at the discussion organized on February 12, the head of community has noted that in addition to local residents, no one, including the media, has been invited, he manages and makes plans for his community, however, it was possible to participate and ask questions, to be close to residents.

Sahak Nazaryan, community leader said that the 131 farms of his community one by one were informed about the issue and the discussion over it, in order that later fail to object about being unaware of it.

Then presented the issue, spoke about the draft of the constructing tailing dump and urged residents to come up with suggestions and questions. The discussion was held in a quite noisy atmosphere because the public has no sufficient information in the specific issues. However, the previously prepared information leaflets were divided by “Community development and support” NGO. To the question of the Aarhus Center Coordinator about what project they were talking, the mayor answered that it was spoken about the alleged project.

The representative of “Akhtala Ore Processing Combine” presented that the goal of the land-use change is the construction of the tailings dam, but it’s a long process, studies are still needed. To a resident proposal, asking to recultivate the former tailing dams, the latter answered that there was no need to ask, because it’s the responsibility of the OPC and assured that they will do it definitely, because the current government pays great attention to the environmental issues. The latter words were awarded by stormy applause.

A member of Metz Ayrum Council of Elders, who was the former village mayor, gave the example of Tchotchkan neighboring village council’s unanimously decision on the land-use change and proposed co-villagers to stand for that issue. A question was also raised about the movement of the spring passing through the tailing dams gorge, a response was given that the issue is already settling, and soon the community will not have water problems.

Participants of the discussion were affected by the speech of a refugee resident of the community, who was concerned about the future of her children, patriotism, she agreed with the idea of Mr. H. Sanasaryan that they give the land timeless, but as a benefit gain only damage and unhealthy lifestyle.

Despite the hot and noisy debate, unfounded remained the attitudes and intentions of community residents regarding the main issues: to change land-use, or not, if new tailings dam should be built or not, as the old ones are in a bad state and the threats are growing day by day.

To the professional and advisory support call of the Aarhus Center Coordinator the community head and young people responded positively and finally proposed to continue working together, to organize information and training seminars for the public to understand the essence of the problems.

The Aarhus Center has applied to the community leaders of Metz Ayrum and Tchotchkan to obtain additional information.

Anush Evoyan
Coordinator of Alaverdi Aarhus Center
Tell: (+374) 60 645 295 – inner 191
E-mail: info_alaverdi@aarhus.am, anushevoyan@rambler.ru
Translated by Anush Beybutyan