By Atom Markarian
Minister for Urban Development David Lokian pledged on Wednesday that Armenia’s northwestern regions devastated by a catastrophic earthquake in 1988 will be completely rebuilt before the end of next year.
Lokian told a news conference that the implementation of a three-year government plan on the reconstruction of houses and public infrastructure in the Lori and Shirak provinces is proceeding on schedule, with about $30 million spent this year. He said the government will raise an additional $60 million to provide the remaining 14,000 families with housing next year.
The program on the earthquake zone worth a total of $150 million was launched at the beginning of last year. The bulk of the money is to come from external sources, including the US government and leading Diaspora charities.
Official figures cited by Lokian show that nearly 2,000 families that were made homeless by the disaster have settled in new houses and apartments this year. Just over half of those families, living in the northern cities of Gyumri and Vanadzor, have acquired new apartments under a $15 million housing scheme funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The USAID has been underwriting the purchase of apartments by those families who obtain special housing certificates from aid officials. The scheme has been praised by President Robert Kocharian who made the reconstruction of the earthquake-hit areas a major theme of his election campaign in 1998.
A considerable part of the ongoing construction work, $15 million, is financed by the Lincy Foundation of Armenian-American billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. Other major contributors are the US Huntsman Corporation and the All-Armenian Fund Hayastan.
Armenia will mark on Friday the 13th anniversary of the quake which killed some 25,000 people and left hundreds of thousands without shelter.