Cafe Season In Yerevan Again
A1 Plus ran an interesting story yesterday that is of particular relevance to those of us who live next door or close to any of Yerevan's many open-air cafes. Constructed in violation of the law by state officials or their relatives, these cafes have already resulted in the shrinkage of green areas in the capital. In the summer, however, the situation gets even more unbearable when music blasts out, sometimes until the early hours of the next morning.
According to the RA Health Ministry, the anti epidemic inspectorate deputy head Marietta Basilisyan, suchlike "objects' must be visited frequently and fined. Today, the Municipality commerce and service department head Karen Gevorgyan said that a week ago they visited 39 open-air cafes in Yerevan. 16 of them have received preliminary warnings for violation of music norms.This is the situation with the cafe opposite my apartment in Komitas. A friend living in the same building recently complained but was effectively told to get lost by the owners. The head of one local organization, the branch of a very large International NGO, did some checking and yesterday told me that I really do not want to mess with these guys. They already have criminal backgrounds and are effectively the local mafia.
But according to Mr. Gevorgyan if they continue to violate the norms, they will be fined for 30,000-50,000 drams. But still, according to him, in order to solve the problem the fines must be raised up to 300, 000 drams.According to Mrs. Basilisyan, the violations of music norms do not harm the health of the people very seriously, but the continuous loud music can cause serious illnesses.
Nevertheless, the Yerevan Mayor's Office is trying to do something but one guesses that if the owners of a particular cafe are more powerful, then there's nothing much they can do. This was the situation with the illegal construction of these cafes in the first place. While tourists, especially from the Diaspora, see these cafes and consider them a sign of progress, most communities and residents in their proximity are sick and tired of them.
Hopefully, after a successful Shikahogh campaign and with the Armenian government facing pressure from the Council of Europe to make the Mayor of Yerevan an elected -- and thus accountable -- official, perhaps environmentalists will once again turn their attention on the cafes in Yerevan. For anyone interested, Edik Baghdasarian of Hetq Online wrote an article for Transitions Online that is a great background to the problem.
Anyway, making the Mayor of Yerevan an elected official would go a long way to making his office more sensitive to community and environmental concerns and not only because the law is being broken by officials and businessmen close to them. The Mayor might also finally comply with a recent court ruling that he should release details of land allocations in the park around the Opera to Hetq Online which he so far refuses to do even though such information should be in the public domain.
On a related note, an interview I held with Sona Ayvazyan, Environmental Policy Expert and Project Director for the Center for Regional Development / Transparency International in Armenia on the environment in Armenia -- and cafes in Yerevan -- can be found online here.
Tag: armenia | environment | democracy | corruption