Last updated on 2nd July 2019
The Black, the Dirty and the Kaputt
Also Yerevan has its other side, the ugly and dirty face which no one really wants to see or talk about. But I will shine a light on some things I have noticed hoping that this will raise awareness. There are already enormous efforts to improve the situation and certainly there are worse places in the world. But there are also better places and surely there is still much to do.
With this Yerevan is no exception. As many other cities it has too many cars, buses and trucks on the roads. Traffic is dense sometimes. And there are still very old cars and lorries on the streets, older than me I suppose, and their fumes will drift blackly over the asphalt for some time. The same applies to most of the Marshrutkas. So it smells. Yerevan’s air is really bad in comparison to places far enough outside the city. In addition there are the fires. Some of them are made to burn rubbish or they happen because the rubbish ignites the dry grass and it burns as long as there is material. Hence the clear days on which Mount Ararat is visible are rare. Starting in June, when days become really hot, there is hardly any day when there is no fire somewhere, easy to spot from a higher elevation. I have witnessed many of them. When I saw a fire the first time I tried to alarm people, but was met with ignorance. No one actually does anything about it. No fire brigade. No actions. And no answers from people who I have questioned about it. I personally think those fires are no surprises. The area is full of rubbish, and a little piece of glass can easily ignite a fire. And not to forget that most Armenians are smokers throwing their cigarettes everywhere. apart from that, I have seen people making big fires for BBQ despite the dry and hot weather.
Sadly the city is littered with trash. Yerevan has a heavy usage of plastic bottles, every shop puts the purchase into a plastic bag and so on. The remains are everywhere, along the roads, rivers, in the lakes and parks. There are bins but, when full, the rubbish ends up next to it. And not always people make the effort to find a bin, they just drop things there and then. And not only plastic is thrown away , even entire cars, machines, whatever you can think of. One place that suffers a lot is the Hrazdan gorge. Clear water and unique nature has been turned into a landfill. People come for BBQ and leave their rubbish when they leave. Restaurants along the river, and other businesses, do the same, cars rush through the gorge throwing things off their windows, and people even wash their cars here. In the past – I don’t know about today – there have been lorries coming into the gorge dumping their load, and people who live along the cliffs just throw things off their windows. The area became really filthy. But still I saw some people sitting on the river banks trying to relax and enjoy nature, surrounded by trash and rubbish. A sad sight.
Initiating a change AVC and Birthright had organized a Community Service Project (CSP) in collaboration with Eco Aghb NGO, a social enterprise that was founded in 2018 with the goal to free Armenia of the recyclable waste load and raise the recycle culture. The main aim of the CSP was cleaning up in Hrazdan gorge, sorting the collected materials into three categories (paper, glass, plastic) for recycling purposes. I have signed up for it, and went, and seen so much dirt and rubbish I nearly gave up on it. It was disgusting. And we managed only to clean a tiny bit of the gorge. And while we were cleaning a bunch of people came along, passing us with their BBQ equipment, bringing new bottles, bags, food containers etc. It was so discouraging. Apart from that, from the NGO people we learned that recycling in Armenia is just at its beginning and people only know little. And in villages, where people need to get rid of their rubbish somehowfast and cheap, they just burn everything. They don’t know about the dangers, they don’t know about recycling. As we know from the trip to Azat reservoir, the city throws the rubbish onto landfills as well.
Unfortunately Yerevan – and Armenia – has many buildings that were started being build but never finished. There is for instance the big Northern Bus station from where the bus goes to Lake Sevan, impressive place with polished marble but not finished and still empty. It is rotting. The same is happening to the massive but empty hotel in that prime location at the shores of Lake Sevan. There are many other places throughout the city that never been completed and start to become ruins. And then there are many buildings that urgently need maintenance. Especially the blocks of flats where people live are in such horrible state that one must wonder how they are still standing, and balconies don’t crash down as soon as someone steps on it. The roofs of buildings are often covered with aluminium sheets only. I have visited several roofs for PV installations during volunteering and was surprised that those roofs are on one hand water proof and on the other hand would carry the weight of PV modules. to make it short: There is a lot of maintenance urgently needed.
Street dogs and cats
Even though it is not nice to have them around I believe they are the smallest problem. Apart from chasing cyclists here and there – as they are not used to them – they are quite calm, get their food from the overflowing rubbish bins everywhere and are perfectly socialized so that there are hardly any fights. They sleep where it is comfortable or cool, under bridges, on the greens or similar, and drink from the many fountains as we humans do.