Only three law suits have been won by consumers since Armenia proclaimed independence in 1991. The last one concerned drinking water.
The matter concerns a pollution episode that took place over 11 days in Yerevan last November. Numerous local residents of Arabkir, a community of 100,000 in Yerevan, became victims of unexpected damage to the local water pipes. Drinking water mixed with sewage. According to the official report, 280 adults and children were brought to the hospital for treatment of gastrointestinal diseases.
Armen Poghossyan, director of Consumers Union of Armenia, however, estimates that the number of sick was at least three times higher.
“Armenians don‘t like to seek medical assistance. Besides, there is only one hospital in Yerevan, intended for gastrointestinal infections, and for many people it is quite hard to reach it”, said Poghossyan.
The outbreak of illness illustrates ongoing concerns about the quality of Yerevan’s drinking water.
“We are blessed with good quality drinking water from springs,” says Noune Bakounts, Chief Specialist of the State Hygienic and Anti-Epidemiological Inspectorate. But others are not convinced.
“We are interested in the quality of water that comes in our homes . Unfortunately, state bodies still do not pay due attention to this issue,” says Hakob Gharabeghyan, of the Consumers Union .
Consumers’ Union of Armenia has helped the affected residents of Arabkir to assert their legal rights . The organization brought a total of eight law suits against Yerevan Water Supply and Sewerage State Company. All the law suits were decided in favor of the water users – two were answered fully, and six were answered partly.
“Three days we had real muddy and stinking tap water,” said an outraged Laura Barseghyan, a resident of Arabkir community. “Nobody warned us, and we were forced to boil this polluted water, or to buy expensive bottled water. ”
According to Barsghyan, local merchants increased spring water prices by up to 30-40% during the pollution episode.
“Yerevan Water Supply and Sewerage” CJSC was obliged to reimburse Barseghyan’s loss with 46,000 drams. Last week, however, the company appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal.
Many in Armenia mention that local water is extremely high-quality, pure and tasty. But even in countr y’s capital , Yerevan, nobody is completely confident about the safety of their drinking water.