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Georgian hydro powers as part of Turkey's economy19.11.2012 | 18:23
In the context of economic globalization, Turkey can claim to become "an epicenter of economic development". However, this development has one major obstacle - acute lack of power. Turks want to solve the problem with electricity through neighboring Georgia. Mikheil Saakashvili is actively lobbying construction of new hydropower plants, since this can fill the budget and create new jobs. But is it true?
The rate of energy consumption in Turkey has one of the most rapid growths in the world amounting about 9% a year. The introduction of new power generating facilities simply does not keep up with the growth in demand for power. Today the deficiency leads to almost daily blackouts. Turkey has to import more electricity and reflect this in its economic plans.
December 24, 2008, on the initiative of TGR Enerji, a subsidiary of Russia's OAO "Inter RAO UES", it was decided to import Russian power to Turkey via Georgia. That time the Georgian-Russian relations were extremely strained. Anyway, the agreements were concluded.
But, even notwithstanding contracts with Russia, Turkey needs a powerful "nearby energy donor" which could supply the power during peak hours. Energy-rich Georgia is being considered first of all.
Georgian hydropower development is vital for Turkey. It remains only to consider if such a situation meets the interests of Georgia.
Given the current level of development of the Georgian economy, existing power facilities may be sufficient. However, proponents of mass construction of new plants show that increasing of the number of plants is vital since this will help to make good money and create new jobs. Mikheil Saakashvili insists on the construction of the HPS, while his political opponents have declared intention to review the country's energy plans.
The work to include Georgia into Turkey's energy system is intense. In 2009, the Turkish company Georgian Urban Energy (GUE) began construction of 78 MW Paravani hydropower. Its power is planned to be transmitted to the substation in Akhaltsikhe, and then to Turkey. A 400-kilowatt power line was recently commissioned for these purposes. The Neskra and Namahvari HPS are under construction; the project "Kaskad HPS Oni" in Adjara is being prepared to implement.
These projects have not passed full examination, including environmental. Kaskad HPS with reservoirs is planned on the full-flowing rivers of West Georgia - Rioni, Inguri and Adzharistskali. This would threaten the ecological balance in so-called "pure" Georgian provinces - Racha, Svaneti and mountainous Adjara. The most valuable lands will be flooded. A number of villages in the area along with historical monuments, as well as valuable forests, also will be flooded.
A paradox: Georgian authorities declare an intention to develop tourism and simultaneously decide to flood and develop the most beautiful corners of the territory.
Proponents of hydropower plants on Georgian rivers provide an example of Norway, where the share of hydropower is about 99%. But supporters of the "Norwegian experience" often have never been in this country. In Norway, there are no permanent settlements and farmlands located above 300-400 meters above sea level. They do not need reservoirs and expensive dams to create HPS.
In Georgia, there is a completely different situation. Georgian mountain river valleys are densely populated. Construction of hydropower plant with reservoirs requires the resettlement of people, but even those whose homes do not get flooded, they will anyway find themselves in a difficult situation. As for the new jobs for the locals at the construction sites, they shouldn't account on it since this is a short-term cycle.
There are a lot of negative aspects of the mass construction of hudropower plants in Georgia. These projects are in the Turkish interests. Turkey will do its best to lobby their implementation. However, it is necessary to review a number of projects in order to minimize the negative effects.