Armenian Volunteer Corps

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Sunday Recap with SunChild Rebecca

Rebecca Kandilian

Sunday 1:09 AM and it’s only been a couple of hours since I’ve been back in Yerevan.

So many things happen in just a day on the green bus that it’s almost impossible to do a one-week recap in less than a page. But, I can always try. Before I left for Lori, ‘Lori’ itself did not mean more than a region on the west side of Tavush. But, after spending a week there, it means a whole lot more—a slew of unfortunate and very serious environmental issues.

Throughout the week, as soon as Sergey and I said we represent Foundation for Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Affairs (FPWC), peoples’ eyes lit up and they poured their hearts out. Lori region is rich in copper-molybdenum deposits which has opened the doors for people (mostly non-natives) to use it to produce copper. Rather, ABuse it as the waste is not disposed of properly. Specifically, the open-pit copper mine in Akhtala faces one of the most beautiful churches I’ve yet visited—such pity. In between the church and the factory runs the Akhtala River. Yes, some of the waste is dumped into the river and the rest left out in the open (instead of being fenced by cement) diffusing all through the town and making its way to the lungs of the locals. Naturally, the animals drink the local now-yellow river water, people eat those animals and you have a problem.

The affects of it all on the inhabitants became apparent when we went to the local kindergarten in Akhtala to do our presentation. Besides the suffocating smell of the chemicals present in the classroom, the dark under eye circles present on the pale faces of the children explained it all (see pic). All 30 of them had them—it’s from the polluted water, and air the staff explained. Does the owner at least provide some support to the school? I asked. She pointed to the old worn out carpet—enough (not) said.

The copper produced in Akhtala is sold for much money in England we were told and the workers here don’t even get lunch breaks. What money can make people do. Or, what people do for money. By now, I think it’s pretty clear that I have a soft spot when it comes to kids and seeing those kids’ eyes and in such poor conditions and at the same time knowing that it’s mainly a result of greed and material gains just made me sick to my stomach.

Besides Akhtala, we visited 8 other villages. Most had the same problem as Akhtala and those that did not have a copper mine debated about allowing or disallowing the establishment of one. A no-brainer in my opinion.

In a couple of days, after much rest and laundry, we will leave again to go to the Syunik region.

(Apologies for the delay this week. We had some Internet challenges.)

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