Yerevan’s trash goes from being sanitary problem to political
The issue of garbage collection has again come to the forefront in Yerevan.
Sanitek, the company responsible for the collection and removal of garbage in the capital, has been struggling to cope with its responsibilities.
The issue has made it to the desk of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who has proposed not to fine Sanitek in the hopes that the company will be able to better manage its resources.
Meanwhile, the government has decided that there should be a second garbage collection service operating in Yerevan. The opposition, however, has expressed discontent with the way the municipality has organized the tender.
Yerevan residents’ complaints
The situation regarding garbage collection in Yerevan has been ongoing for more than a month. Residents of the capital blame the mayor’s office, and the city authorities refer to the poor performance of the only operator who is responsible for the collection and disposal of garbage in Yerevan – Sanitek.
The company has already been fined more than once for not fulfilling its obligations, totaling $50,000. However, the situation has not changed.
City Hall says they receive photos daily from residents of the capital, showing mountains of garbage overflowing near garbage cans.
“The problem is that, according to their contract, garbage cans should not be allowed to fill up to more than 80 per cent. However, we already see that this is not 80 per cent, but more. In these instances, it is clear that garbage has not been collected for several days now,” Yerevan City Hall employee Harutyun Khachatryan stated.
According to the agreement concluded with Sanitek, the company is obliged to quickly respond to and solve such problems. However, the company has not been fulfilling its obligations properly for several months, as it lacks garbage trucks for this task.
How Yerevan City Hall is trying to solve the problem
The Armenian government has allocated 900 million drams ($1.8 million) to city hall for the purchase of an additional 15 vehicles in order to help deal with the issue.
On 18 April, the Cabinet of Ministers made the decision at a meeting in which Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutyan also took part.
He said that in his first months as mayor, an agreement was reached with the company in which they were to hire subcontractors in order to successfully fulfill its obligations.
However, this only temporarily solved the problem.
Understanding that the situation would eventually escalate, the mayor’s office announced a tender for the purchase of garbage trucks.
What is the opposition bothered by?
Opposition members of the Council of Elders, that is, the city authorities, stated that the mayor and his team had allowed the situation to escalate to a critical state on purpose.
In particular, Luys faction member David Khazhakyan says that the mayor’s office’s aim was to purchase cars from a specific person. And he sees possible corruption here:
“I’m not saying that the government should not make any decisions, because the situation is really terrible. But the officials who brought the situation to such a state and entered into any deals must respond according to the law.”
Khazhakyan says that in the garbage truck tender, KAMAZ vehicles were explicitly noted. As a result, other companies could not take part in the tender.
“If the competition was conducted properly, it would be possible to save dozens, if not hundreds of millions of drams,” said Khazhakyan.
Sanitek is a branch of a Lebanese international waste management organization. The company was established in 2010, and since December 2014 it has been working in the capital of Armenia.
It won a tender announced by the former mayor of Yerevan to take on the city’s trash disposal. The initial installment of the company, when it began to perform its duties, amounted to 10 million euros.
Sanitek rebuked the mayor’s office for ‘disseminating biased information’.
“We ask our partners to observe the norms of correctness and provide the public with only objective information, not one-sided statements that are in favour of the Yerevan Municipality. Companies, as foreign investors in Armenia, should always be provided the most favourable treatment, as well as fair protection.”
The crux of the matter is that the company has problems with their garbage trucks, which have deteriorated and should be replaced.
In September last year, Sanitek announced that it had acquired equipment to the value of $500,000 dollars. At the same time, company director Nicholas El Tawil said that even if they use hundreds of cleaning machines, they will still have problems. He explained that it was necessary to fix the roads leading to the Yerevan Nubarashen garbage dump, as the roads were responsible for damaging the vehicles.
Back in September, the management of the company agreed with the municipality that Sanitek would buy new vehicles, and that the municipality would solve the problem with the roads.
The company points out that the municipality has not fulfilled its part of the obligations, due to which Sanitek continues to incur losses.
The statement also says that per the tender announced by the mayor’s office back in February, the purchased vehicles should have been leased to Sanitek. However, according to the company’s management, the mayor’s office did not comply with this agreement.
Facebook users are divided into two camps.
Some believe that the city’s mayor has started a “dishonest game” and back the opposition’s doubts. Others are convinced that the mayor’s office is acting in the interests of the citizens.
Here are some of the comments of Yerevan’s netizens:
“I don’t understand – does everybody like to live in a country where the law doesn’t work? Khazhakyan directly points out the violations committed by the Yerevan mayor’s office! Why does everyone close their eyes to this?”
“We must expel the mayor! Let him work as a security guard in a theatre!”
“The opposition is purposefully preventing the city from finally being cleared of rubbish!”
“It’s not even important how the city will be cleared, who will win the tender or how – the only thing that matters is that Yerevan will finally be cleared of tonnes of garbage.”