Cleaning Up: City considers proposals for getting rid of garbage in Yerevan

The Yerevan Municipality is currently considering new projects that would reduce one of the capital’s worst problems, waste.

The head of the Municipality’s Department of Construction, Municipal Improvements and Economy, Frunze Basentsyan, says garbage is Mayor Yervand Zakharyan’s everyday concern.

“The mayor issues orders regarding waste management every day. However, the whole system is destroyed and in urgent need of reforms,” Basentsyan says.

The Municipality is negotiating with “Shimidzu”, a Japanese firm, which suggests building an electric station that will work on biogas obtained from organic waste of more than 20 years. The proposal is under consideration and is expected to be approved within a month.

Another project targets improving the waste management system itself.

A survey by Autobahninvest-Center, a Russian business interested in investing in waste management business in Armenia “anticipates serious legal and technical reforms,” according to head of Alphaplus Consulting, Alexander Poghosyan. “It showed that the business is working at a loss – collection of fees is only 46.6%. The fee amount was calculated 10 years ago, when the prices of fuel were twice lower. On average, the waste transportation trucks are 20 years old.”

Basentsyan says the project will cost about $25 million. “However, even if we make everything out of gold, the system will not work unless the population realizes its importance.”

The population surely realizes the need.

“Waste problem is a disaster for our country,” says Yelena Manvelyan, head of the NGO “Armenian Women for Health and Healthy Environment. “During the whole summer it was impossible to open windows at my apartment because of sordid smell and flies.”

As bad as conditions are in the capital, the situation is worse in villages, where waste is dumped in streams or burned in gardens.

Manvelyan says the situation in Yerevan is worsened by the lack of green space, which significantly neutralizes the effect of dangerous elements produced by neglected or mis-handled waste.

Manvelyan is opting for “zero waste”, which aims to create healthy communities where products are better designed, reused, repaired, recycled or composted so that they are harmlessly reintegrated back to commerce or nature. The NGO is a member of a Global Action against Waste Incineration, which has members in more than 50 countries.

For Armenia the most up-to-date way of handling waste – building a separating and waste recycling factory is a remote dream. However, the sphere will have some essential reforms in the nearest future. The Ministry of Urban Development has recently established a Committee on Solid Waste Management, which currently works out a plan of reforms.

The Municipality project also allocates money for an information campaign through mass media to encourage the population to keep the city clean.

“The attitude of the population is just as important as system reforms,” Basentsyan says.