Summertime visitors to Meghradzor, a hamlet in Kotayk Marz, will be hard-pressed to take a cool dip in the local Tezh River.
A mini hydro-plant operating there since 2007 has dried the waterway to a mere trickle.
The plant is owned by former MP and Military Prosecutor Gagik Jahangiryan and his brother Vardan. The company operating the plant is inappropriately called Waterfall Ltd. and was founded by Vrezh Jahangiryan, Gagik’s son.
Hovsep Hakhverdyan, the plant’s director, confirmed that it belongs to Vardan Jahangiryan.
Hakhverdyan used to be Vardan’s chauffeur when he was the Geghama branch manager for the utility, Armenia’s Electrical Network, CJSC.
Armenia’s Public Services Regulatory Commission says the plant’s licensing capacity is 2,064 kilowatts of power, but the plant’s two generators produce more than it’s allowed.
In fact, the plant is not allowed to draw water from the Tezh during August, the driest month of the year.
However, during our visit to the plant on August 13, it was up and running.
Director Hakhverdyan told us that the plant was operating to cover miscellaneous expenses and in order to pay the ten workers.
“The plant is working at 100 kilowatts. It’s not profitable but we have to in order to keep our employees and the machinery tuned,” he said.
Hakhverdyan didn’t even know the amount of water flow that the company had to maintain in the river. When we asked, he look amazed and stuttered, “What minimum flow?” We had to explain what we meant.
“Hey, it’s not like we use up all the river water. There’s fish in the stream and the place is a resort zone. We could use it all up, but we don’t.”
We had to point out that the plant is legally obligated to maintain a certain flow in the Tezh River.
Vrezh Jahangiryan told us by phone that the company follows all environmental regulations. He said that the minimum flow is 20 litres per second.
You don’t have to be a hydro-engineer with x-ray vision to see that the trickle of water now flowing by the plant’s intake pipes is nowhere near the legal requirement.
We also wanted to check-out the fish bypass pipe but the director advised us that our car wouldn’t make it up that far. Hakhverdyan claimed that some of the staff had taken the company’s four wheel drive that morning to clean out the bypass; otherwise he would have driven us up there himself.
We drove up nevertheless and saw no company car, employees or a fish bypass. The river seemed to be flowing at a normal rate above the intake pipes. It was another story further down the stream.
In a strange twist of fate, another mini hydro-plant was recently constructed further down the Tezh by Arjadzor Ltd.
Local residents told us that it hasn’t been operating because there isn’t enough water flowing by it.