To the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, Mr. Archil Talakvadze

The Prime Minister of Georgia, Mr. Giorgi Gakharia

The Chairman of the Georgian Dream Party, Mr. Bidzina Ivanishvili

 

Stop Destroying the Rioni Valley!

As a result of the new coronavirus pandemic, a number of commercial and public institutions operating in Georgia have been practically shut down for a year now; small grocery stores as well as the large corporations are complying with the government regulations and restrictions.

But there are powerful companies that are not subject to pandemics and restrictions; customized laws are being created for them that allow these companies to destroy the nature of western Georgia and the villages in Rioni gorge.

The most privileged of them is the Turkish company ENKA, construction contractor on Namakhvani HPP project, which is actively lobbied by the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Ms. Natia Turnava, according to her daily statements (that have nothing to do with reality).

In addition to the right to operate virtually unhindered during the pandemic, construction contractor on Namakhvani HPP enjoys other unexplained, unlawful benefits; such as:

A significant part of the agreement between the State and the company ENKA is confidential. The locals, environmentalists, self-governing bodies and civil society representatives know nothing about what the official institutions and investors have agreed on, what benefits are expected by each side from the agreement, how favorable the terms of the agreement will be for the state budget or Tskaltubo and Tsageri districts;

ENKA has not submitted a completed version of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) document to the government;

The final design of the HPP has not been approved; the Turkish side has not conducted a significant part of the necessary studies to obtain a construction permit.

Despite the lack of legal documents, the company suddenly got the permit to start “preparatory construction work”, that affects the riverbed, allows the drilling and blasting of mountains.

The attitude of the State and the investor towards the people living in the construction area of Namakhvani HPP is outrageous:

They take advantage of the unbearable poverty of the residents of the Rioni Valley and promote the disposal of private and state lands at lowest prices, thus transforming ENKA into the largest landowner;

Authorities disregard the arguments and demands of the protesters permanently campaigning for the last two months against Namakhvani HPP; moreover a few weeks ago, the State also deployed special police units in the village, which dispersed people gathered to support the protesters spending days and nights in the tents.

The government also disregards the fact that the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as the European Energy Community are concerned with and reflect in their reports the highly damaging practices established in Georgia; namely- guaranteed and long-term purchase of electricity from new generators; such agreements are onerous and unprofitable for the country.

Yes, the government is ignoring Energy Community while it is going to become its fully-fledged member.

The Georgian government also ignores the standard developed by the European Union, according to which any infrastructure project must meet three criteria: environmental, social and economic. Therefore: no matter how profitable any given project might be economically, if it is ecologically dangerous and destroys human habitation, it should not be implemented! Especially if it is completely economically unprofitable!

Yes, the Georgian government ignores the ideals and principles of the European Union, although wants to join it and receive endless financial assistance from it.

But shouldn’t we doubt the reality of this wish, when we see the plans imprinted with such hatred of nature, completely gone beyond the reason: to build 150 HPPs, that is to flood all the rivers, tributaries or springs of Georgia?!

Namakhvani HPP consists of several dams. Their total surface area will be 610 hectares; more than 1000 hectares of land may go under water; 104 families face the danger of relocation, up to ten settlements will be affected by construction; the unique viticulture-winemaking micro zone of Tvishi and endangered sturgeon species included in IUCN Red List and protected by the international conventions are affected.

The Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture, as the agency responsible for rural survival and development, on the one hand prioritizes the development of agro-tourism, where the wine tourism is the highest priority and on the other hand, issues a permit to destroy the unique endemic vine variety Tvishi micro zone (The head of MEPA Mr. Levan Davitashvili will go down in history thanks to his criminal indifference to the nature of Georgia).

Proponents of the destruction of Georgia’s nature and mountainous regions are relentlessly repeating myths that they themselves have invented to deceive the population:

They talk about “energy independence”, “the need to use surplus hydro resources”, “cheap electricity”, etc. They do not have scientifically substantiated arguments at all.

No comprehensive geological, hydrological, seismological research has been conducted in Georgia since independence; None of the largest infrastructure projects is accompanied by cost-benefit analysis, Georgia does not have economic and energy development strategies at all.

Too much indicates that neither man nor nature is of any value to government or investors.

Everything in this country is decided by the market and its largest, often anonymous players.

It has become clear today what a destructive anachronism is the blind belief in the omnipotence and nobility of the free market; The belief that the market will regulate everything; That the state should not plan anything and should not interfere in anything; The belief that foreign investment is a key factor in the economic salvation of a country. The belief that the main thing is money, millions, profit at any cost.

How long can the public beg the government to submit any document that can be called a strategic energy development plan! A plan that should show what energy potential we really have, what is the state and capabilities of our nature, what kind of economy we want to have, what social goals we have set …

Consequently, only on the basis of objective scientific research, taking into account the ecological and social factors, it should be determined where, when and how we build any cascade or hydropower plant.

We want to state again: God forbid, but if the irrational plan of the current and previous governments of Georgia is realized, in a few years, one HPP and the corresponding infrastructure will be installed on every 15 km section of the Rioni River. The whole Rioni gorge will be turned into reinforced concrete, buried and dried.

How can we tolerate the fact that the land and water of Georgia and, consequently, the people are being destroyed because of the boundless greed of the small, anonymous groups!

We want a fair distribution of resources not only among the people living today, but also between the generations.

All people living today and those who will be born in the future have the right to receive clean water, air and food. And as a result of such a barbaric attitude towards nature, how will our children and grandchildren be born in the country: in a sunken, excavated, exploded and destroyed Georgia?

Therefore, we demand an urgent public hearing in the Parliament of Georgia, where the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Natia Turnava will not be showing off in front of her fellow party members and the pampered-encouraged „investors “, but will be answering the questions from the local population, untainted specialists and environmentalists in the presence of the members of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee.

No government can live with the people whose habitat they are destroying.

 

Naira Gelashvili – Writer, Germanist, Environmentalist

Elene Abashidze – Doctor of Geology

Zurab Kiknadze – Doctor of Philology, Iliauni Emeritus,

Nugzar Papuashvili – Doctor of Philology

Davit Adeishvili – Doctor of Economics

Levan Bregadze – Doctor of Philology, Critic, Translator

Giorgi Lobzhanidze – Iranist, Arabist, TSU professor, Poet, Translator

Levan Lortkiphanidze – Political Scientist, Head of the Green Program of the “Caucasian House”

Thea Galdava – Historian, Board Member  of the “Caucasian House”

Ivane Abramashvili – Executive Director of the “Caucasian House”

Sopho Sokhadze – Art critic, Environmentalist

Beka Natsvlishvili – Political Scientist