Poor infrastructure, waste collection and transport, violation of property rights, bureaucracy are in the top list of issues, representatives of Vanadzor-based civil society organizations believe.
Arayik Zalyan, lawyer at HCA Vanadzor, said they daily get complaints regarding the activities of the local authorities from Vanadzor residents.
“The complaints are diverse and concern mainly the availability of information about property right. We have appealed the decisions of Vanadzor Head, particularly the cases referred to the transfer of city lands to a third party as a gift,” Zalyan said.
Alongside with waste collection and snow removal, Zalyan pointed out the reconstruction of roads and streets as a concern. “The city council has issued 11 permissions for the reconstruction of roads but they all expired in December 2014 and the works have not finished yet. The companies change water supply lines, ruin streets without reconstructing them. Who is to be held responsible?” Zalyan noted.
Edik Hovsepyan, head of the Secretariat and Public Relations at Vanadzor City Council contradicted the project of changing water supply lines is implemented by a private reconstruction company and the city council only gives permission for the works.
“The city council does not have other leverages and competences. We are ourselves very disappointed to have to choose between having high quality water supply and well-reconstructed roads. As for now, we are assured the works will have been over by spring, 2015. Regarding snow removal, 5 million drams is too small a sum for the organizations to take their equipments out to the damaged streets and clear them. The city council has announced a tender but no company has applied,” Hovsepyan said.
However, the civil society representatives stressed it is not only a financial-economic problem but an organizational one.
“Waste is not collected in gardens because the city council does not exert control and pressure on the waste collection companies. Our city is facing a transport problem as well. You can hardly find a public bus or mini bus after 8 in Vanadzor. Why should not the responsible authority take measures to change the situation and improve it?” Artashes Sergoyan, member of the "Peace Dialogue NGO", Vanadzor, said.
In response to the issues voiced by the panelists, Nikolay Grigoryan, Deputy Head of the Emergency Service, Ministry of Territorial Administration and Emergency Situations of RA, said: “The problems which are not properly addressed can be sent to us. We are willing to cooperate with you and find the best solutions to problems,” Grigoryan noted.
Artur Sukiasyan, lawyer at the Young Lawyers’ Association, considers bureaucracy the main issue. “The authorities provide the required information only to address the demand formally. They respond to merely respond, without ensuring the proper content. In villages requests are not responded at all and we have to apply to the human rights defender to get an answer,” Sukiasyan said.
Following the discussion over the bureaucracy in Vanadzor, Artak Demirchyan, head of the Agriculture and Nature Protection Department, Lori Regional Council, spoke on the passive participation of the society in public discussions.
Local officials consider the consolidation of communities as a possible way out. “The consolidation of communities is under discussion. A referendum in the pilot regions is planned so that the public opinion is taken into consideration,” said Hripsime Babayan, chief specialist of Local Authorities Coordination Department at the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Emergency.
The Ministry of Regional Administration of Armenia initiated the pilot projects of the community merging program for communities in Tsakhkadzor, Dilijan, Jermuk and Tatev in 2014. The two projects - programme and administrative – embraced 14 communities.
In 2015 the pilot project of merging Tumanyan city and six village communities will be carried out in Lori, said Zhirayr Ghazaryan, head of the Local Government and Community Services Division of the Local Government and Republican Executive Bodies Department, Lori Regional Council.
“Presently, the state subsidy hardly suffices to pay the council staffs… Under the circumstances no improvement in communities is possible. The consolidation of communities aims to make services more affordable, save up funds which will result in better quality services,” Ghazaryan said.
Nikolay Grigoryan added no steps will be taken until proper public awareness raising campaign is held and further plans and financial statements for international organization-funded consolidation projects are developed.
“It is a crucial project for local development which needs thorough consideration and this year first actions will be taken,” Grigoryan said.
Lilit Arakelyan, Editor-Coordinator