Long - Awaited Water for Spitakashen, Nagorno Karabakh
Water shortage is a serious international issue.Water shortage is a serious international issue. Currently, it is estimated that one billion people in the world lack access to safe-drinking water, and 2.2 million people die each year from consumption of contaminated water — 9,500 children alone die every day.
Karabakh is also experiencing water shortages, nonetheless…
Mkhitar, aged 40, is an accountant, working in the community administration since 1988; in 1994 - 2001 he was in military service. He is married with three children. Mkhitar’s wife, Azniv was a telephone operator until recently but with Vivacell-MTS mobile operator modernizing its facilities, her services are no longer needed. Today, the family of five depends on Mkhitars salary, which is slightly more than $100 dollars. The eldest son, Grigor is 14; he is an inborn invalid and takes special classes at home. The younger son, Martin is a first-grader. Arpine who is five will enjoy the new school, which Hayastan Fund will have ready for the community by the time she will go to school.
Years ago, some 12 people from the community depended for their income on the Lusakert poultry factory located 5-6 km from Martuni town; today it no longer functions. Mkhitar and most villagers depend for their income on wheat and barley, which they sell to both state and private manufacturers. Wheat, grain and grapes are among the few agricultural products, which can do with limited water. As for vegetables, such as pepper, onion, and bean, they are grown in small quantities and in areas close to springs.
The village has taken its name – Spitakashen – after the white stone, which is in abundance in and around the village. The villagers collect them and use to build houses barns, fences or extensions to their houses. It is important though that the stone is plastered from both sides, or it will wear away in low temperature.
Was there regular freshwater, life would be more or less bearable in Spitakashen. The electricity-pumped water is costly and a non-reliable source of water supply, since the pumps go out of order every now and then leaving the villagers without water. There used to be around 490 people in the village. With no regular supply of drinking water and hope for the future, some 50 people have left the village in search of a better life during the last 15 years.
Thanks to the Kaghartsin-Spitakashen 8 km long water pipe, which was sponsored by the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund Argentine local committee, Spitakashen community has now 24-hour gravity-run water. Although the water increases or decreases in quantity depending on the seasonal precipitation, water supply is there for 24 hours a day.
In a year’s time the community will also have a new school designed for 120 students. This is especially welcome news for the young families in the community. Lack of a proper school for their children to study in, added to the lack of water in the village, would be too much for the villagers to bear. It’s hard to say now for how long the Spitakashen residents would choose to stay in their homes without these essentials. One thing is for sure – the ongoing lack of water would cause devastating harm to the communities and with the decreasing number of the population it would take dozens of years for the situation to improve. Water has instilled hope in people; those who did not even hope that life would improve for them now do.
Shiraz Hairapetyan, aged 53, has been teaching mathematics at the Spitakashen school from 1979 – 1987. In the following years and until now he has been heading the school. Shiraz has three daughters. The eldest and middle daughters have married and settled down in the nearby villages; the youngest is a student at the Artsakh University. Shiraz’s wife, Villena, teaches Russian at school. All in all, the school has 20 teachers and five support staff working for the school.
Shiraz, like the rest of the residents, grows vegetables in small quantities in his lot, which covers about 200sq/m area, as well as wheat and barley in the open field around not far from the village. But unlike the rest, he does not own any cows, sheep or goat. And unlike many of the villagers, Shiraz never considered leaving the village, although challenges were more than enough. He always believed that one should keep to his land and his homeland.
According to Shiraz, water in the village is a delight, and will undoubtedly help the village keep going. The new pipeline makes great difference both in terms of water supply and finance. Now the residents pay far less for the water. In winter months, with snow feeding the springs, there will probably be no need to pay at all.
Ivetta, aged 51, is a housewife. Her husband, Edik works for the community administration. Their two sons, 28 and 30, are married and settled in Stepanakert. The family-run food shop struggled for six years but did not survive. The income did not cover the costs. Closing the shop down was a more sensible thing to do than to continue struggling under the burden of debts. Now the family entirely depends on Ediks’ salary, around $100 dollars.
The household does not own any domestic animals, has no allotment and does not grow anything at all. Evetta says that due to the high location of their house, they did not use to have water at all and did not grow vegetables of their own, besides the land around the house is not arable. They used to carry water from the Avo spring, which is about 2km from their house. Now they are so thankful to those who installed the pipeline. And it does not cost as much as it used to. Evetta’s husband is one of the few lucky ones who have got a paid job. The only places that provide employment are the school (25 jobs), the medical post (2 jobs) and the community administration (3 jobs). Life is rather difficult in the village for the family. Ivetta used to consider moving to Stepanakert and sharing the same apartment with her son. The only thing that holds her back was the fact that son rents rather than owns the apartment in Stepanakert. Now she is not sure, whether this is the best situation under the current circumstances. Water is there and everyday struggle has eased off.
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