By Atom Markarian
The World Bank announced on Friday the disbursement of a new $20 million loan to Armenia which is designed to finance the second phase of a long-running restructuring of Yerevan’s hugely inefficient water network.
The head of the bank’s Yerevan office, Roger Robinson, said the process will take five more years and will enable the Armenian capital to have a “very strong and solid water utility.”
“This will mean two things,” he told reporters. “It will mean more coverage on a daily basis in terms of the number of hours per day that households receive water as well as its quality.”
At least 90 percent of the city’s population will enjoy round-the-clock supplies of drinking water as a result, Robinson added.
The Armenian government had earlier pledged to meet this target by the end of last year. But as the first $30 million phase of the program draw to a close that target was revised to 80 percent. A top executive from the Yerevan Water and Sewerage Network told RFE/RL last month that only 72.4 percent of city residents now have running water for 24 hours a day.
Anecdotal evidence suggest that the real percentage is much lower. A consumer rights group suggested recently that less than one of third of Yerevan households boast 24-hour supplies.
The scheme funded by the World Bank was launched in 2000, involving a sweeping overhaul of the utility and repairs of its decaying network of pipes. The network was placed under the management of an Italian company as part of the effort.
The way the World Bank money has been used was strongly criticized by an ad hoc commission of the Armenian parliament last year. The head of the National Assembly’s Oversight Chamber, Gagik Voskanian, likewise described the process as inefficient on Thursday.
But Robinson strongly disagreed with the criticism. “If they believe that the implementation of this project was not efficient, then I’m afraid I disagree with them,” he said. “I would be happy to sit down with the chamber of control and explain why I disagree with them.”