Armenia’s government gave on Thursday the green light for the relocation of an entire village as part of a $71 million project to build a new reservoir and irrigation system in northwestern Shirak province.
The construction of the Kaps reservoir on the Akhurian river had begun in Soviet times but stopped after the catastrophic 1988 earthquake that devastated many local communities and the provincial capital Gyumri in particular.
Armenia’s former government decided to revive and complete the project. Germany’s state-run development bank KfW agreed to lend it 50 million euros ($59 million) for that purpose in 2014. The government pledged to provide the remaining 10 million euros needed for building the irrigation facilities.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s cabinet has also been committed to the project designed to improve supplies of irrigation water to farmers in Shirak.
It approved on Thursday a plan to relocate Jradzor, a village 22 kilometers north of Gyumri which would be fully or partly submerged by the Kaps reservoir. Jradzor’s 350 or so residents are to be resettled in a new village that will be built from scratch several hundred meters away.
The plan commits the government to providing all of them with new and free housing. This will cost the state an estimated 4.9 billion drams ($10 million), according to Vache Terterian, a deputy minister for local government.
The Jradzor mayor, Gevorg Hovakian, and several other local residents interviewed by RFE/RL’s Armenian service said they look forward to the relocation. The impoverished village was severely damaged by the 1988 earthquake and never completely rebuilt.
Terterian told Pashinian and cabinet members that work on the new village will likely start next year and be completed by 2024. He gave no time frames for the construction of the reservoir itself.
Pashinian stressed the strategic significance of these and other irrigation dams planned or already built in Armenia. “Approximately 7 billion cubic meters of water originates in the territory of Armenia every year,” he said. “But we can now manage only a fraction of these resources: around 10-15 percent. We must be able to achieve much more serious strategic objectives in this area.”