- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
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 October 3, 2003 

No Flood for Baghramyan: A look at life in a dry village

It seems that to bring water to the villagers is not only the job for Robert Harutyunyan, but also the mission.

In a valley, Ararat, named for a site of history's most famous flood, the 1,249 residents of Baghramyan village live without water supply and without most of the conveniences of civilized life.

Mother of four Melsida Harutyunyan works in the office of the head of Baghramyan village as a financier. She is one of the first residents of the village. After moving from Miasnikyan village in 1989 with her husband she decided to take up permanent residence in Baghramyan.

"Those years it was not a village. An urban-type village had been constructed here. Prospects of a future town made us come to Baghramyan. We were provided with an apartment. Large-scale construction works were taking place, my husband had a job. But now everything has changed," says Melsida.

Dilapidating and rusting construction cranes over half-built buildings are the symbols of that change - and none of it for the better.

Deputy head of the village Vazgen Khachatryan says that everything had got all mixed up after the collapse of the USSR which had plans to turn Baghramyan into an industrial city. In 1983 construction began on Baghramyan and by 1988 it was inhabited. It became Baghramyan region containing 15 villages of Talin and Armavir regions.

Villagers'old carts with the containers full of water are driven by kids along village roads like cars.

As a result of new administrative division Baghramyan became a part of Armavir region and got status of a village. Today mainly refugees from Baku and Sumgait live here.

Single pensioner, 70 year old Arshaluis Zakharyan is one of them. Besides 4000 drams (about $7) pension, Arshaluis earns money selling sunflower seeds. "Nobody thinks about us, we live as luck wishes. And if something happens then we, neighbors, help each other."

People live in this village, located 66 kilometers away from Yerevan, only by their own forces. Some breed cattle; others farm crops against the odds of fickle nature.

"As a result of the lack of irrigation water and draughts villagers' cultivation areas dry," says landowner, private businessman 37 year old Stiopa Ginessyan.

One of two small kiosk-like shops belongs to him and he is the only hope of many villagers. From the regional center (Armavir) he brings goods that villagers ask. There is no market in the village and no groceries.

"Even if there were markets and groceries villagers wouldn't be able to buy anything from there. They take goods from me on credit. They pay me their debts when they get their pensions and allowances," he explains.

It is regarded as a great luxury to go to Armavir market for Baghramyan villagers and it is not affordable for everyone. To reach the regional center one must cover 12 kilometers and spend 600 drams (about $1) for going there and back.

The houses in Baghramyan are two- and five-storied and made of tuff. There are 16 apartments in each five-storied building, however, today only four to six families live there. As Khachatryan assures many people have left this place and will never return.

Single pensioner, a refugee from Azerbaijan Arshaluis Zakharyan got used to life "as luck wishes".

The only educational institution of the village is a school with 164 pupils. This year only nine children have entered the school. As a result of the lack of water there is even no lavatory in the school. And the one, which is located outside the school, was wrecked two years ago by strong wind. Kindergarten is held only in June, July and August.

There is no hospital or polyclinic in Baghramyan; villagers employ services of one small ambulance station and only one nurse takes care of patients.

However, besides numerous difficulties and problems, the most serious problem for the villagers of Baghramyan is the lack of drinking water. People drink fresh water here only every third day.

Melsida says: "We used so much water of bad quality that we have always been expecting in fear that some disease or virus would appear one day. Initially we haven't had water. We buy clean drinking water (transported from Talin - about 20 kilometers away) for 50 drams (about 8 cents) for one bucket."

According to her, one container full of water, which makes four buckets (40 liters), costs 200 drams (about 35 cents). If you use water for washing dishes, having bath and other things then one container won't be enough even for one day and it means spending 6000-7000 drams (about$10-$12) per month for water, which would be unaffordable.

And deputy head of the village Vazgen Khachatryan indifferently talks about water trade. He also mentions with pride that since September 2002 villagers have been provided with artesian water (but not for drinking). Before, residents had to pay 150 drams (about 25 cents) per container for water even for washing, etc.

A program sponsored by the government of Germany provides the water for bathing, laundry, cleaning foods, etc.

Waiting for water...

Arshaluis Zakharyan purchases two to three buckets of drinking water (brought from Talin). She uses it only for drinking and says that for her this situation became something usual. It's hard to get used to that but what can she do?

Forty-six-year old Robert Harutyunyan is from Baghramyan. He is so tired that he doesn't want even to speak. His sea blue eyes hint on the fact that Robert is the village water merchant.

"Twice a week I bring water from Talin, five tons. What I have brought today has already finished, though I bring water sufficient enough for three days," he says.

The water seller says that even though it is his livelihood, he wishes his village could get its own drinking water and he could get another job.

If all his customers can afford to pay, Robert earns 3000-4000 drams (about $5-$7) per day. However, he often lends water so that people won't remain thirsty.

"I have list of debts and will always have that list until we breathe and until we breathe it means all of us will live from hand to mouth with debts," he says.

Meanwhile deputy head of the village remembers that in 1993-94 there was a program of installing water supply system Artashavan-Talin-Baghramyan for drinking water. However, that program hasn't been implemented.

"All responsible authorities are informed about the situation in Baghramyan. Even the government is informed. This village was constructed without a water pipeline," says Khachatryan.

Along the roadway to Baghramyan, carts carrying metal containers meant for milk but holding water are the main traffic.

A middle-age countrywoman strains every muscle for moving the cart forward. Sweat drops decorate her face and her hair drops in disorder down her shoulders. Her discontent spills over with the sloshing load of water.

"We live in a desert," she says. "Soil has dried from heat and sultriness and we too dry without water."

According to Agnes
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