Racha on the verge of eco-disaster17.09.2012 | 18:47
The Rioni River has become the next victim of Georgia's energy policy. To create a cascade, to be located near the resort of Utsera, 3,500 hectares of land in the mouth of the rivers of Rioni and Chanchahi will be sunk. A second hydroelectric power station must be built near Chiora village. Locals are convinced this is an environmental disaster.
The heads of local energy companies have plans - full development of such large rivers as the Rivers of Inguri Rioni and Mtkvari. Eco activists and the representatives of the local population believe this is very dangerous for the region of Racha, which is, in fact, reserve.
According to information published on the website of the Ministry of Energy, Georgia, along with Turkish partners, is planning to build a new 400-500 kW energy transmition line. Turkey's interest in this project is not surprising. Georgian government is obsessed with power export; and its single buyer in the region is Turkey, whose needs are constantly increasing.
To realize this idea, the Georgian authorities are going to deprive the already land-hungry region of agricultural and grazing lands. In addition, Racha is a pretty seismically active zone and therefore undergo frequent earthquakes. The appearance of that huge building may threaten the resort floodings due to the increased threat of aftershocks.
Locals are waiting for a variety of misfortunes due to the changes in the ecology of the region. "Potato would have rot, just like the apples on the trees. We often have rheumatism; and children get heart disease dramatically more and more", local residents complain.
The representative of the "Green Georgia" Nino Chkhobadze considers the fact that the unique nature and recreational area of the Racha region is being turned into a training ground for the giant construction projects the incorrigible offense.
"I say as it is: this project is destructive for Racha. Lands in this area suitable for agriculture are being flooded. And unflooded area won't survive the climate changes. Increasing of soil moisture leads to the increase of the already high risk of rock falls and landslides", Nino Chkhobadze believes.
According to Nino Chkhobadze, the power shortage in Georgia is a myth. "The energy crisis is a result of the wrong energy policy. Correct operation and proper management of generation, transmission and distribution of the power give one hundred percent guarantee of meeting the needs of the country", said the ecologist.
The government has promised that every construction of a HPP would pass a detailed study, and the project would be carried out with minimal impact on the environment. But the "Green Movement" in Georgia has revealed numerous inconsistencies and perfunctory calculations in the documents on the assessment of the impact on the nature, already approved by the Turkish experts.
It has turned out that the document contained no data on the types of flora and fauna, included in the Red List, in the region of flooding. Also, there is no documentation in relation of the historical monuments and fourteen villages included in the region of flooding; there is no plan of the resettlement of the population, the transfer of the cemetery and further works.
The "Greens" demanded to carry out the preliminary examination untill the appearance of an investor, as well as determine the economic feasibility of the project by comparing the income and preliminary assessment of environmental impact. None of this has been done, but the construction has begun. They are working without meeting any regulations.
Pikria Gogrichiani, a resident of Utsera: "The work is being done quickly. They have urgently brought building materials. When asked what they were going to do they gave no specific answer. They do not say a word about our pastures, orchards and gardens. As long as I live, I will not move anywhere".
Giorgi Japaridze, another local: "We live in a unique area. Here there are many mineral and fresh water. Touching natural resources without any thought is a threat to national security. Racha is on the verge of disaster. The HPP is being built not for Georgia, but for a foreign country, but at the expense of Georgia".
Tamaz Archvadze, a geologist, told about the possible impact on the region. "Following the recent data, the famous resorts of Shovi and Utsera may lose their function, and in Racha there will be new eco-migrants. Infrastructure and communications necessary for the construction of that scale would change the form of the Rioni Gorge", he says.