Earthquake Zone Reconstruction Will End in 2003 Says Urban Development Minister Davit Lokian

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The most destructive act of nature of the last century for Armenia was the earthquake of 1988: in 406 populated areas–more than 25,000 died and more than 530,000 people were left without shelter. In the aftermath of the Spitak earthquake–named after the town located on the epicenter of the earthquake–completely destroyed or badly damaged more than 230 industrial facilities–the housing fund with a total area of 8.9 million square meters–schools for 150,200 students–and 416 public health facilities.

Minister of Urban Development and Coordinator of the Earthquake Zone Rehabilitation efforts David Lokian answered questions about the current stage of the renovation in the earthquake area.

Noyan Tapan: How would you characterize the current condition of the restoration projects in the earthquake zone?

Davit Lokian: I am not exaggerating when I say that there is no other domestic problem in Armenia that is as crucial as the problem of the earthquake zone. The local population faces numerous problems–beginning with housing and going through every societal need there could be. It will take several more years to solve all these problems. However–everything possible is being done and will be done to complete the reconstruction of the zone on schedule-in 2003.

N.T.: How many apartmen’s still need to be constructed in the earthquake zone?

D.L.: The state still needs to accommodate housing for about 14,000 families. Out of the 14,000 families–1200 have moved to the earthquake zone from nearby areas–2750 are tenants in temporary housing facilities–and there are 846 families–who have increased after the earthquake and who have already received one apartment–but expect the second.

The number of restored–fortified and constructed apartmen’s in the earthquake zone will reach 4200 by the end of the year–three times more than last year’s figure. The government financed some of the housing built–however–the majority were financed by various organizations–including USAID–the Lincy Foundation–the Huntsman Foundation–the All-Armenian "Hayastan" Fund–and the Social Investment Fund.

Not all of these programs are constructing new houses–which is more expensive than purchasing available living spaces and granting them to homeless families. Such a program is being carried by the USAID and the US Institute of Town-planning. Under the program which costs $20 million–the organizations will purchase apartmen’s for 4,000 families in the Shirak and Lori regions. Thus–3000 families (2400 in Gyumri and 600 in Lori) will be issued certificates giving them the right to purchase an apartment in the Republic of Armenia–and 1000 families will be provided with gran’s to complete the construction or repair their apartmen’s. The USAID and the US Institute of Town-planning also financed the repairs for 80 buildings in the Shirak and Lori regions.

Certificates have been issued to about 700 families so far–another 200 will be issued by the end of the year. A grant program is also underway. About 800 gran’s have already been issued to residents of Nalband–Jrashen and Spitak.

N.T.: Many public health facilities and schools were destroyed as a result of the earthquake.

D.L.: By the end of the year we will almost complete the "Earthquake Area Rehabilitation Complex" program that reconstructed most of the schools and public health facilities in the earthquake zone. Next year–only three schools will be reconstructed (two in Gyumri and one in the village of Voghjik) and two public health facilities-a new wing of the Dilijan hospital and a mental clinic in Shirak.

N.T.: If the current pace of the reconstruction work is maintained–when will it be finished?

D.L.: In 2003. In 2002–we are planning on constructing and operating 1000 apartmen’s–the above-mentioned schools and public health facilities–as well as a cultural centers stipulated by the Lincy Foundation. The cultural centers include the Palace of culture in Vanadzor–the Avetik Isahakian house/museum and the S. Merkurov house/museum in Gyumri–the Minas Avetissian house-museum in Jajur and others.

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