Defeating the Purpose: Expensive bio toilet gets broken, becomes a laughing matter in Tatev

Defeating the Purpose: Expensive bio toilet gets broken, becomes a laughing matter in Tatev


The two biological toilets purchased by the government to spur tourism development and placed next to Syunik’s most popular, but remote Tatev monastery and St Gregory the Illuminator church in Yerevan, have failed to work.

The “Not Working” sign attached to the toilet in Syunik that cost the taxpayer quite a fortunate – the two were purchased for 124 million drams ($340,000) – stirs even higher interest among people, who approach, study and leave thinking “what a pity”. Residents of Tatev village running their small businesses next to the monastery offer their explanation of why the toilets worked only two days, then failed.

“A few people entered it together, and the computer system collapsed,” they mock and laugh.

Tatev village head Murad Simonyan says he is tired of answering questions about the bio-toilets.

“They say it was ruined by a lightening. Craftsmen came to repair it some time ago, but it only worked one day. I have no idea why it’s not working, but would very much like to ask people in charge to come and take it away, so that I don’t have to answer questions about it anymore. I cannot answer those,” says Simonyan.

Deputy Minister of Economy Ara Petrosyan told the press that the great number of visitors at the tourism destinations of Armenia makes it a necessity to have such toilets.

“For example there are also places, where the flush toilets built of tile and pumice concrete don’t last a winter. This is culture that has to be introduced gradually,” he says. “This is a pilot project, by which we are trying to show its advantages to the private sector, in particular that one such toilet can be acquired for $170,000 and then profit. Modern technologies are used to keep them clean.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan stated that the project is profitable from business perspective and the state budget would bring back the money allotted for their purchase via 200-dram charges.

Nonetheless, the Control Chamber looked into the Ministry of Economy expenses and established that the money spent on the two bio-toilets was an unjustified expenditure. The one installed in Yerevan functions only periodically, while the one in Tatev is totally non-functional. Minister Vahram Avanesyan believes the utilization of the toilets is out of the ministry supervision and respective repair-related warrants were given to the National Competitiveness Fund. The fund was, hence, in charge of installment and utilization. The fund representatives counter that their responsibility was only to ensure the operation.

The Tatev village head says the money spent on the toilets was enough to carry out the community development project, including opening an agro market, building ‘tonratun’ bakeries (to make Armenian flat bread and barbecue), by which 16 families would have jobs, while many leave the 860-resident village for lack of employment opportunities.

President of the Association “For Sustainable Human Development” Karine Danielyan says she has done internet research and has not found any bio-toilet that would cost more than $1,500.

“It is unreasonable to spend that kind of money on bio-toilets given the general situation in the country. They can still be spent on tourism development by advertising the Armenian culture and history to the international community,” says Danielyan, adding, “If we want Armenia to have foreign visitors other than from Diaspora, part of that money could be spent on cleaning up the roads. I traveled to almost half the world, but have not seen a country like Armenia, where nature and historical-cultural monuments come hand in hand. Regrettably, we are unable to present it to public at its best.”