Garni Gorge

by Kirk Wallace, AEN Armenia Office Director

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AEN is currently delving into the waste management debacle in Armenia.  There are close to 500 landfills in Armenia, none of which meet the standards of a typical “Western” landfill.  There are no leachate barriers, no methane dispersal equipment, no measures preventing fires, and so on.  For the villages, these standards are beyond their ability to meet.  They simply don’t have the financial ability to construct a “Western” style landfill.  So, what do they do with their trash? I was in Garni a few months ago.  Garni is a tourist destination that features the remains of a temple constructed in the 1st century a.d.  It is magnificently perched on a cliff overlooking the Garni Gorge and a beautiful river (the Garni River, I believe) below.  My group decided to give the river a closer look.  The approach road was quite steep and paralleled a small feeder stream for the river below.  Normally, it would have been beautiful.  In this case, the opposite was true.  The feeder stream was literally clogged with plastic bottles, bags and other refuse, virtually all the way down to the confluence of the Garni River.  Once in the gorge, the same sight awaited us.  There was garbage everywhere in the Gorge and whirlpools of trash. The Garni Gorge could be a spectacular “green” tourist destination.  The government of Armenia and the municipality of Garni, with a minimum effort, could turn Garni, and the nearby Geghard into a must-see stop.   Tourists, however, will not return if the word gets out that the Garni Gorge is simply a convenient place for Garni residents to deposit their trash.