Residents of a village in Armenia’s northern Lori province on Friday accused the government of failing to compensate them for their land confiscated for the reconstruction of a major highway passing through their community.
The village of Vahagnadzor straddles the 90-kilometer highway stretching from the provincial capital Vanadzor to the Georgian border. The government contracted several construction firms to refurbish and expand it after obtaining around $120 million in loans from two international development banks. The roadworks began last September.
Vahagnadzor is one of several Lori villages that have had their land holdings adjacent to the highway nationalized for the project. Government officials promised that their owners will be adequately compensated.
“I can say that they have fooled us,” the Vahagnadzor mayor, Edik Yeghoyan, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azautyun.am).He said that none of the owners of around 70 local plots of land subject to confiscation has been paid so far.
Yeghoyan said he sent a written complaint to the government in Yerevan last week but has still not received a reply. He is now going to write to President Serzh Sarkisian.
Eduard Bezoyan, the chief executive of the Chanapar construction company in charge of the Vahagnadzor section of the highway, insisted, however, that the government and private contractors will pay up. He said a special task force will measure each village family’s land loss and compensate it accordingly.
“It’s a solved issue and there are no complications,” claimed Bezoyan. “It’s just that some people are creating difficulties to stage a show.”
At least one Vahagnadzor family, the Sargsians, has made clear that it will not cede any land regardless of the amount of compensation. Its members say that the expanded highway would be too close to their house and create serious safety risks for them.
The village has around 450 residents. Its administration’s annual budget is worth only 8 million drams ($17,000).