Yeghvard Residents Protest Business Jointly Owned by Iranian-Armenian Businessman and Gagik Tsarukyan
Some 200 residents of Yeghvard, a town of some 10,000 in Armenia’s Kotayk Province, closed the main roadway to Yerevan on the morning of July 20 to protest the planned construction of an oil reprocessing plant.
The protesters said the plant, being built by ArmOil CJSC tens of meters away from residential houses, posed serious health and environmental risks to the area and local inhabitants.
An hour after the launch of the protest, General Director of ArmOil, Iranian-Armenian businessman Alfred Abedi, appeared on the scene.
In response to the complaints, Abedi noted that there would be no emissions from the plant and that it did not pose any environmental risk, since there would be no burning process, and the production would be based solely on physical processes.
Abedi added that there would be no crude oil processed at the plant, planned to process only oil and bitumen raw material, most of which was planned to be exported. Nevertheless, local residents were skeptical about Alfred Abedi's assertions, demanding an independent inspection.
Abedi said that the plant construction was halted in June-July 2016 due to financial problems, when it was also decided to suspend ArmOil's activities. Soon after, MP Gagik Tsarukyan visited Iran, met with representatives of the Armenian community and offered his assistance.
Gagik Tsarukyan became a partner in ArmOil and now half of the shares of the plant belong to him, and the other half to Armenian-Iranian businessman Henrik Ter-Ghukasyan.
The public hearing on the application of the preliminary environmental impact assessment of the oil reprocessing plant started at the Yeghvard Municipality at noon, in parallel with the protest, with the participation of Alfred Abedi, Deputy Mayor of Yeghvard Karen Harutyunyan, ArmOil employees and residents of Nati district of Yeghvard.
The participants learnt that ArmOil had applied to Aram Galoyan, a private contractor, to conduct a preliminary environmental impact assessment. When it’s ready, the company will apply to the Ministry of Nature Protection to receive a technical task, to be followed with the main assessment application, presenting the possible risks of the oil reprocessing plant. Another three public discussions are planned on this topic, to present the details of the main assessment application.
Photo (from left): General Director of ArmOil Alfred Abedi and Yeghvard Deputy Mayor Karen Harutyunyan
At the public discussion, Yeghvard residents again expressed their concerns, urging Abedi to stop the plant construction until the results of the inspection were ready. Abedi reassured the residents that ArmOil’s actions were legal.
Deputy Governor of Kotayk Province Vasak Vardanyan appeared at the protest site later on and assured the demonstrators that if the inspection proved that the plant would cause even a slight damage to the environment, the factory would be shut down. The traffic on Yerevan-Yeghvard road was restored shortly after his arrival.
Abedi told Hetq that the construction of the plant was planned to be completed within the next few months.
Note to Readers. Around a month ago, on June 18, the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Armenia issued a statement saying that Yeghvard Municipality officials falsified permit papers in 2015 to allow ArmOil to build the plant. The statement mentioned incorrect information on the actual volume of construction, which resulted in the permission of building an oil reprocessing plant without any environmental impact assessment and inspection. The preliminary investigation into the criminal case is underway.