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Against Khudoni HPP with God's help2013-05-17 17:16
Georgia is waiting for the decision of experts to start a large-scale hydropower project on the river Inguri in the region of Samegrelo-Zemo, Svaneti region. At the same time, residents of the surrounding areas, including the Khaishi district, are massively vowing on the icon in the church of St. George that the hydropower will not exist.
In Georgia, they are again arguing around the construction of hydropower plant on Inguri River. This is about the power plant with a capacity of 650 megawatts, the construction of which will cost the state millions of dollars. The defenders of the environment are arguing against the project as in all times. They are supported by the residents of surrounding areas. If the project of "Khudoni power plant" is implemented 300 families face relocation, and dozens of villages may get swamped by the waters of Inguri River.
Having gathered the residents of Khaishi area took the oath on the icon in the church of St. George not to allow construction of the plant in Svaneti. Population of Khaishi requires the suspension of the project and threatens to conduct a large-scale action.
In the region the situation is aggravated. In the mountainous Svaneti today the old laws rule. The ancient oath on the icon is above any law. For many decades the Svaneti residents have not vowed in such scale. In Georgia it is well known, if a Svan swears on the icon he is ready to sacrifice his life in order not to break the oath. And when the heads of Khaishi families swear on the icon of the patron saint George - "We pledge to save the region and express our will against the hydroelectric power" - they are not joking. The initiator of this peculiar form of protest is a certain Zomadze, the local authority.
Oath of the 21st century has been modified and modernized. Makhvshi (elders' families) after the oath on the icon have fixed their desires on paper and confirmed it by the signatures, and then sent to the Prime Minister.
The locals call the village of Khaishi the gates of Svaneti, and they fear that the construction of the Khudoni hydropower will transform this symbolic gateway into the prosaic watershed. There is a danger that the very church, where the Svans recently took the oath on the icon, and the nearby cemetery will be flooded.
The views of residents are unambiguous. They will not allow flooding of shrines and graves of their ancestors.
A villager of Khaishi Zurab Nijaradze, giving interviews, spoke quite sharply and categorically: "For us the flooding of the graves of our ancestors is unimaginable and unacceptable. We will not allow it. We have sworn on the icon, so we have stopped talking. The rest is the actions. Just let them come, and we will meet them. Henceforth, nothing will change. The oath cannot be violated in any case. This is not just a problem of Khaishi, this is a problem throughout Svaneti. These HPPs are cascade, and therefore they cause soil erosion, melting of glaciers, landslides and a host of other ills," says Zurab Nijaradze.
Villagers of Khaishi have established an initiative group that is to meet with Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze. They have a proposal - the replacement of large-scale HPP with a micro hydropower plant.
As for the government, they have no concrete solutions on the construction of hydropower plant on the Inguri River. They are waiting for expert opinion and plan of construction from the company. Until then, the fate of the HPP is uncertain.