•  On the problems arising with the construction of Namakhvani HPPs in Georgia

    On the problems arising with the construction of Namakhvani HPPs in Georgia

    2021.02.27

    The Greens Movement of Georgia/Friends of the Earth-Georgia

    Statement

    On the problems arising with the construction of Namakhvani HPPs in Georgia

    Considering the most serious challenges faced by  numerous hydropower plants built on the basis of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports of the recent period, the Greens Movement of Georgia / Friends of the Earth - Georgia, together with local population and civil society activists, express distrust of the construction of large-scale hydropower plants (Kvemo Namokhvani HPP, Zemo Namokhvani HPP, Oni HPP Cascade, Sadmeli HPP, Ghebi HPP, planned cascade on the river Sakaura, etc.) in Ratcha-Lechkhumi-Kvemo Svaneti region -  highland, landslide-prone and one of the seismic zones of Georgia. Moreover,  since the authors of the Namokhvani HPP cascade project are the companies that assessed and constructed Shuakhevi HPP tunnel, which  collapsed within  2 months after the opening. 

    We, the Greens Movement of Georgia / Friends of the Earth-Georgia, are far from the idea of ​​banning the use of hydro resources in Georgia. However, at the same time, we must remember and take into account that any decision must be based on saving natural resources, rational use, caution, expediency, best practices and maximum involvement of the local population.

    We also understand:

    Ø  The government aspirations and efforts to ensure the country's energy independence with utilization of  energy resources;

     

    Ø  Create an image of Georgia as a favorable country for investments.

    However, on the one hand, imperfect and inconsistent national legislation, and on the other hand, the unscrupulousness of investors (imperfection of the submitted project documentation and improper fulfillment of the written conditions) give us such a binary effect that ends in severe and irreparable consequences.

    In particular:

    Ø  Dariali HPP - In 2014, as a result of an incomplete environmental impact assessment, the construction site of the HPP was incorrectly selected, due to which the construction site was landslided twice, 5 people were killed;

    Ø  Larsi HPP - 2014, mudflow actually buried it;

    Ø  Shuakhevi HPP - 2017, within 2 months  of the facility opening, one part of the diversion tunnel was completely demolished;

     

    Ø  Mestiatchala - In 2017-2019, the area of ​​hydropower plants was flooded several times, the water washed away the equipment of the construction company and destroyed the already arranged infrastructure, damaging the Lekhziri gorge. Large financial losses were incurred to the construction company, the local population and the state.

    This proves once again,  that the existing EIA documents do not reflect the reality and that the construction of hydropower plants do not take into consideration several dozen international environmental treaties ratified by Georgia and existing, even imperfect national legislation.

    Unfortunately, despite our numerous appeals to the relevant agencies - the relevant structures of the executive branch of the country, the project investor and the builder have not taken any effective steps to improve the project documentation and EIA, as well as to actually assess the situation and expected risks. This makes the country's energy independence policy even more opaque and causes mistrust of the local population towards  these projects.

    Based on the above, we call upon the Government of Georgia to suspend the construction of Namakhvani HPP, rather than:

    Ø  Inspection of construction works carried out by the company in the project area of ​​the Lower Namakhni HPP will not be provided through the relevant agencies in order to determine compliance with the permit / permits issued within the project and to respond accordingly;

     

    Ø  The interests of the local population and their proper involvement in the decision-making process will not be taken into account.

    We consider it necessary:

    1.     To improve the legislative-regulatory framework in the field of assessment and prevention of potential risks during the implementation of hydropower projects, as well as ensuring the safety of existing hydropower facilities;

    2.     In view of the challenges posed by global climate change, the environmental impact assessment documentation for all existing and under construction hydropower projects should be revised and the assessment of potential risks should be properly reflected;

    3.     Prohibit the use of so-called "design building" during the implementation of energy projects;

    4.     Public awareness, full communication and stakeholders involvement in the decision-making process;

    5.     Ensuring access to contracts and other documents concluded with the investor.

    We emphasize that Georgia is a party to the Aarhus Convention and the government is obliged to ensure public involvement in decision-making on any environmental developments in the region - by improving the relevant procedures and mechanisms in national legislation!

    February, 2021