By Atom Markarian
A Russian-Armenian joint venture that runs Armenia’s gas infrastructure pledged on Friday to complete the long-running restoration of centralized gas supplies to individual consumers within the next three years.
“We plan to complete the gasification and have more subscribers than in Soviet times in 2007,” Karen Karapetian, chairman of the Armrosgazprom operator, told a news conference. “We will invest 21.5 billion drams ($45 million) from 2005 through 2007 for that purpose.”
Armenian households, overwhelmingly connected to the network in Soviet times, stopped receiving natural gas in 1992 following the outbreak of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh and the resulting blockade imposed by Azerbaijan. Ethnic conflicts and civil strife in neighboring Georgia also contributed to the disruption.
It was not until 1997 that the gas supplies began to be slowly restored. Armrosgazprom, concluded that at the time the old network of underground pipes was eroded by years of disuse and decided to build a new one. Much of the bill has been footed by consumers, with an average family in Yerevan having to pay an equivalent of at least $150 to buy gas meters and connect their homes to the network anew.
Karapetian said 57 percent of Armenian families already have access to gas. The fuel is increasingly used for household heating with widespread disregard for safety standards. Carbon monoxide emissions from faulty homemade heaters have killed dozens of people in mostly rural parts of the country this winter.
Armrosgazprom has been blamed by consumer groups for failing to ensure the safety of gas use. But the company partly owned by Russia’s Gazprom giant lays the blame on its private contractors rebuilding its gas infrastructure.