As protests against the construction of a high-rise in Yerevan’s Phys-Gorodok neighbourhood continue, local resident Hayk Harutyunyan, who has been on a hunger strike for nearly three weeks, has stopped drinking water.
Construction of the 12-storey high-rise was briefly halted earlier this month after a request from Armenia’s Environment Ministry. It has restarted as of Monday. Protesters allege the land on which construction is being carried out was illegally privatised.
‘Phys-Gorodok’ is a colloquial name for a Soviet-era neighbourhood in Yerevan’s Ajapnyak district that was built for the employees of the nearby Institute of Physics. Unlike much of the capital, Phys-Gorodok has maintained much of its Soviet-era green space and has been declared a ‘local cultural monument’ by the municipality.
The building is located on a site that, prior to construction, was used as recreational greenspace by the neighbourhood’s residents.
Hayk Harutyunyan, a resident of Phys-Gorodok, has been on hunger strike since 27 August and announced on Monday that he would stop drinking water. He, along with other residents and protesters, has called for the construction project to be cancelled.
In a statement published on Facebook, Harutyunyan accused the Yerevan municipality of ‘sanctifying the illegal behaviour’ carried out by Ratko, the construction company responsible for the project as well as the illegal ‘enclosure’ of the building site.
Construction was halted on 22 August by order of the Ministry of Environment. According to a ministry statement, Ratko did not carry out a necessary Environmental Impact Assessment before beginning construction.
Before restarting the construction a Ratko representative told RFE/RL that their project did not need an environmental assessment and that ‘all state bodies, including the Environmental Ministry, had given their conclusions'.
The Ministry of the Environment has yet to comment on the resumption of construction.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s Investigative Committee has opened an investigation into the allegations made by opponents of the project and have recommended to the Yerevan municipality that construction be paused while the investigation is still ongoing.
The Mayor of Yerevan, Hayk Marutyan, stated on Tuesday, that ‘everything is being done under the rule of law’ and that he instructed lawyers at the municipality to look at possibilities of suspending construction or revoking the construction permit.