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 December 20, 2002 
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Cold Reality: The more debts mount, the fewer homes rely on old heating system


Before, thanks to centralized system and stable financing, in winter days almost all residents were provided with heating in Armenia. Homes were furnished with radiator systems in which heated water kept apartments reasonably warm.

These days everything is changed. Specialists say the number of buildings with such heat decreases each year. And instead of getting normal heating in winter days residents resort to wood and oil stoves and fill their buildings with smoke and soot from burning whatever is convenient.

"Eh, there were times when everything was good; you didn't even feel what it was to say 'a cold winter'," says resident of Yerevan's South-West district Alvard Hovhannisyan. "Many residents of numerous buildings are sitting in a corner swathed in a shawl or gathered around heaters and remembering those good days with nostalgia, when there was a stable warmth in the apartments."

Robert Bughdaryan, executive director of the State heating facilities CJSC (Closed Joint-Stock Company), recalls the 1995 pre-election period for the posts in the National Assembly with great dissatisfaction.

"In that year many candidates were publicly holding speeches assuring people that they had already paid for people all heating bills. And after elections, of course, it's clear that nobody remembered the promises they had made," says Bughdaryan.

The director says that after waiting for a long period of time many of the residents came to the conclusion that if they didn't pay for heating for years nobody would punish them by legislation.

Now, approximately 60 percent of residents don't pay for the heating.

"Last year the debt of residents for heating was 420 million drams (more than $750,000). Before 1995 almost all residents used to pay for having stable heating," Bughdaryan says. "But today only a part of people who get heating pay us. We aren't even hopeful that they will cover their debts."

Winter has already hit Armenia bitterly this year and the issue of finding warmth is a serious concern for many.

But despite complaints of residents, officials say affordable heating is not so expensive, costing about 1100 drams (about $2) per square meter for 90 days.

"Every year the number of buildings which are heated by the radiator system, is decreasing and the residents are guilty. Last year we planned to heat 1,100 residential buildings, but this year there will be only 700 residential buildings heated. Residents don't pay and debts are increasing," says Bughdaryan. "If everything continues this way then we will completely be deprived of our heating facilities. We decided to be more strict and heat apartments of only those residents who will cover all their debts and make contracts with us."

During Soviet times there had never been problems with heating facilities and as a result of that almost all apartments were heated. These days, unlike the past, only the shadow of that system has remained.

As Bughdaryan assures, there are numerous problems connected with that system, however, the reasons of the greater part of those problems are first of all residents' indifference and irresponsibility.

"If residents paid we would have possibility to renovate our external network and pay salaries for three years to our workers. We would have possibility to cover huge debts for electric energy, gas and water as it is still unclear how we are going to compensate these debts," says Bughdaryan. "However, our conditions are gradually becoming more and more complicated."

Specialist on heating facilities of Yerevan's Malatia-Sebastia community Ashot Ghazaryan assures that besides problems with payments, many residents also illegally use hot water flowing in the heating tubes with the help of special taps. And with that water they solve their everyday needs. It is dangerous not only for the residents but for the safety of the whole heating system as well.

"And as a result of that we get huge waste of fuel, water and energy. Besides that, the whole heating regime is suffering and fluctuation of the pressure leads to the decrease of quality," says Ghazaryan. "And we don't know how to fight the problems of this field as during only several years this powerful system is facing the problem of complete destruction that can take place as a result of absence of the law and indifference."


 

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