June 04, 2016

Hayk Tutunjyan: There are a lot of projects in Tatev

Interview of Hayk Tutunjyan, Head of Tatev Revival Project to Mediamax

Interview of Hayk Tutunjyan, Head of Tatev Revival Project to Mediamax

International Base jumping festival is to be held at TaTever ropeway on June 5-10. This is why Mediamax decided to interview Hayk Tutunjyan, Head of Tatev Revival Project implemented by Initiatives for Development of Armenia (IDeA) Charitable Foundation.

-How did you come up with the idea of conducting a Base jumping Festival in Tatev?

- A couple of months ago the leader of Russia’s Base jumping informal community contacted me and offered to test some jumps at Tatev ropeway. After analyzing all the risks and finding some solutions we have invited the athletes to Tatev to try out some jumps. They were extremely impressed by Tatev: by the Monastery which is a unique historical monument, by the region with its exceptional beauty, and by Vorotan Gorge with all its beauty. From the professional point of view they said it was an excellent place for jumping.

Thus, jump testing showed that Tatev was a good place to conduct a Base jumping festival. The organizer of the festival is Go2Armenia Travel Company with the support of Tatev Revival Project.

I should also note that the athletes took full responsibility for all the risks associated with jumping, they all have insurance contracts, whereas TaTever ropeway only provides a ground for the event.

About 60 athletes have confirmed their participation in the festival. The participants are mainly from Russia though we have representatives from European countries as well.

- Are there participants from Armenia?

- We don’t have Base jumpers here in Armenia yet, but there are Armenians among participants from Russia.

- In the last two years Tatev Revival Project has supported the Sheep Shearing Festival in the region.

- One of the objectives of organizing events and festivals is the active involvement of local communities in our programs, which is the key principle of our activity. The local population should perceive our programs as an opportunity to improve their life. The Sheep Shearing Festival was quite a success last year. The communities were actively involved in it and had an opportunity to present their products, culture and traditions. Taking into consideration the successful experience of previous years we are discussing with the communities and partner organizations the ways to pass the festival on to them. Tatev Revival Project will continue rendering support to the festival although it will no longer be the main organizer of the event.

I should also add that other cultural events are conducted within the framework of the project in order to promote the cultural life in the communities and boost tourist flows. Tatev Monastery has a children’s choir which has become one of the symbols of Tatev. The choir performs in the Monastery as well as in other churches and cultural centers throughout Armenia.

- You’ve mentioned the participation of the local population. Do the leaders of mentioned communities or the population understand that no matter what Tatev Revival Project undertakes nothing is going to change in their life unless they do something themselves?

- The hardest thing, of course, is to change the way of people’s thinking, but the perception of a change becomes easier when you have tangible results. It is obvious that before the launch of Tatev Revival Project and the construction of Tatev ropeway there was quite a different picture in the region in terms of the number of workplaces, social-economic situation and emigration.

Before the opening of the ropeway, only 7-8 thousand people visited the region annually. In recent years about 100 000 people are visiting the ropeway every year, whereas the total number of people visiting Tatev has reached 130 thousand. This, of course, can’t but have a positive impact on the development of the region.

We have supported the renovation of Halidzor School. Engineering labs have opened in Goris, Tatev, Halidzor and Shinuhayr schools since September 2015 with the financial support of the Union of Information Technology Enterprises (UITE) and IDeA. Pupils learn programming, as well as develop games and mobile apps in these labs.

I think the local population can see the results of the project. Maybe there are people who have not experienced the changes yet, but it is a matter of time and perception only. There is still a lot of work to be done, after which the results will be more tangible. At the same time, we should understand that our programs have never tended to play the role of a “magic wand”. Everyone should make an effort in order to improve people’s life - Tatev Revival Project together with its partners, regional and local authorities, and of course the population itself.

- Can we say that the ropeway is an independent structure today and no longer requires investments from project donors?

- Yes we can. I am happy to say that Tatev ropeway is an independent structure today. In 2014 our incomes and operating expenses have equaled and we began to receive some profits. The whole income is directed to the restoration of Tatev Monastery.

- In what stage is the restoration of the Monastery today?

- The stage of architectural design works is coming to an end. The architectural and restoration projects for the Monastery’s church structures, which will be submitted for the approval of Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Ministry of Culture of Armenia, will be ready soon.

The works for the reopening of the historical northern entrance of Tatev Monastery Complex are currently underway. We began the reconstruction from the northern entrance because we didn’t want to impede the normal operation of the Monastery. Once the historical entrance opens the visitors will be entering the Monastery from there and the current one will be closed for reconstruction.

A comprehensive research is carried out during the reconstruction. We are actively cooperating with the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, because various cultural layers are being discovered during the works, which should be studied by archeologists, who have to provide advice as to how to preserve these layers in the future. We have also attracted specialists who particularly work with stones and mixtures. Since the restoration of the Monastery requires extremely scrupulous and cautious approach, sometimes the dates of reconstruction works may change.

The improvement of the northern entrance, the well and the surrounding area is expected to be over by late June. In July, we are planning to begin the restoration of Monastery’s St. Astvatsatsin Church, which, according to preliminary estimates, will last about six months. We have got a deadline for the restoration works, however the primary task is to provide quality and maintain the rules in the process. During the restoration works we will use the best international experience and invite the best professionals in the field.

- Tatev Monastery has suffered from earthquakes a couple of times. Will the earthquake resistance be increased during the restoration?

- Of course, the foundations of constructions of the Monastery are studied in the process of engineering research. Relevant measures are taken in case the foundation needs to be reinforced. It should be noted that a serious problem was resolved in 2015: the drainage system of the complex was built. Underground water penetrates the Complex area and undermines the foundation of the construction. This problem has been already solved.

- In what stage is the project for the establishment of Tatev National Park implemented in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund?

- The biodiversity of the region has been thoroughly studied after the lunch of the project last year. The National Park has already been encircled and the borders have been defined. The main package of documents is due to be ready in late June, which will be sufficient for submitting to the government to recognize the area as a National Park. Afterwards, we are planning to work out a management plan for Tatev National Park.

This project has a strategic importance for the region. The status of a National Park will allow to attract new investors, develop eco tourism, control the use of natural resources and stop illegal construction.

- You have mentioned the increase in the number of tourists. Can the ropeway and other infrastructures accommodate more visitors?

- The ropeway is not functioning to its full capacity yet. However we strive to increase tourist flows and in order to do so we have various programs aimed at the development of tourist infrastructures in surrounding areas. We have worked out a development concept and a general plan for the area adjacent to Halidzor station of the ropeway, which have been approved by our organization. In the nearest future we are going to discuss the concept and the general plan with local communities. According to the general plan, a number of new travel services and infrastructures are to be created in the area adjacent to Halidzor station, increasing tourist flows and the average duration of tourists’ visits.

The program envisages investments, but it’s impossible to talk about them without the government’s support, because there are some infrastructural problems which can be resolved only in case of cooperation between the government and the private sector. Thus it will be possible to attract investments and create new services and workplaces. I should also add that Tatev Revival Project is a successful example of cooperation between the government and the private sector. I hope this cooperation will continue and will contribute to the development of the region, the social-economic growth of communities and the preservation of historical and cultural values.

Ara Tadevosyan talked to Hayk Tutunjyan

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