Open Getar River in Yerevan!

“I’m trying to find myself, and I realized that one of the ways to do that is to understand the place where I live and the issues it faces. Activism around issues of Getar River helped me a lot in this regard,” says Anna Karapetyan.

On April 25th, 2024, visual artist Anna-Lea Kopperi together with the members of the Alternative Youth Center held an environmental art happening titled Open Getar River!. The participants walked along the visible and invisible Getar River, inviting the residents of Yerevan to think about the importance of having a river flowing through their city and drawing their attention to the problems of pollution of the river.

Anna is one of the young people who participated in this project, contributing from organizational work to implementation. She was born and grew up in Yerevan but had not heard about Getar’s problems before. Getar, one of the two rivers flowing through Yerevan, was being polluted and litterred for decades. In the 2000s, instead of cleaning it of sewage and garbage, the government decided to close it in tunnels and cover it with asphalted streets and parking lots. The parts of the river that are still open, are badly polluted. This is an important environmental problem not only for the residents living in the areas adjacent to Getar but for all the citizens of Yerevan.

During the walking action, young people wore cloth hats in the shape of fish and held in their hands fishes made of white cloth. This symbol was chosen as a tribute to the fact that years ago the river was full of fish while now rats dominate its ecosystem. For Anna, walking in masks was the most powerful aspect of the action; it kind of emphasized that it doesn’t matter who we are – what’s important is to raise the issue.

“My parents were born in Yerevan, too, but they did not know about Getar’s issues. By participating in this project, I showed my parents what an important idea I was fighting for. I learned a lot and can better inform my friends and relatives now,” Anna notes. “Anyone living in Yerevan should know about the Getar River, as it is one of the most significant elements of our city. And we need to turn it back to a clean and openly flowing river.”

Written by Alisa Harutyunyan, a young member of Alternative Youth Center in Yerevan, Armenia