Dozens of residents of a village in Armenia’s central Kotayk province again blocked a highway on Tuesday in protest against government plans to divert water from a nearby reservoir used for irrigating their agricultural land.
The government planned to supply, through pipes and canals, some of that water to other villages in Kotayk as well as the southern Ararat province.
Farmers in Goght, a village heavily reliant on the reservoir, are strongly opposed to the project, saying that the artificial lake barely meets their demand for irrigation water. Many of them blocked the local highway in protest last Friday. The Kotayk governor, Karapet Guloyan, pledged to suspend work on the project pending more discussions with local residents.
The Goght farmers again stopped traffic through the highway as they waited for the two main architects of the controversial project sent by the government on Tuesday. The two specialists failed to address the protesters’ concerns during a 40-minute heated discussion.
“Goght’s irrigation system must not be affected by any irrigation project,” one villager told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “Let them build a different irrigation system.”
The protesters agreed to disperse after receiving fresh assurances by the regional governor that the project will not go ahead without their consent.
The protests erupted less than two weeks after the government agreed to abandon a similarly controversial project that would have affected a neighboring village, Garni. The government had planned to divert water from a river that has long served as the main source of irrigation for Garni farmers. The water was due to be delivered to 12 villages in Ararat as part of a $37 million nationwide irrigation project mainly financed by a World Bank.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian called a halt to the construction of an irrigation canal near Garni on May 21 after a series of protests staged by many villagers. They too repeatedly blocked the highway passing through Goght and Garni.