New political and energy crisis hits Georgia
The Defenders of the Rioni Gorge group of activists aiming to achieve complete closure of the most important Georgian energy project - the Namakhvani HPP - announced today indefinite protests that will take place not only at the construction site but also in Tbilisi, near government buildings.
Earlier, the Defenders of the Rioni Gorge delivered an ultimatum to the government: to cancel the contract with the main builder of the Namakhvani hydroelectric power station - the Turkish company ENKA - and repeal the law on transferring the Rioni Gorge to the foreign legal entity. The ultimatum expired the day before.
Today, the government responded to activists' demands by announcing on Facebook that the ENKA contract will be reviewed by the Ministry of Justice and by independent foreign lawyers. Also, a representative of the EU Energy Association will be involved in the settlement of claims - he is examining the impact of the Namakhvani HPP’s work on the environment. Negotiations with ENKA to clarify the terms of the contract will take place in the near future.
The main decision of the Cabinet is to introduce a moratorium on the construction of the Namakhvani hydroelectric dam for 9-12 months. During this period, the project's ecological, geological and environmental impact should be revised and once again justified. At the same time, ENKA will continue to work on the preparation of the HPP infrastructure.
To demonstrate its openness to civil society, the Georgian government will remove barriers in the project area and reduce the number of police officers guarding it. Activists will be allowed to hold protests and set up tents freely in coordination with the police.
The Defenders of the Rioni Gorge were not at all satisfied with such a reaction from the government, they said that the authorities were only pretending they are ready for dialogue, but in fact, they are avoiding it. Therefore, the protests will continue and will constantly expand until ENKA leaves the Rioni Gorge and the project is cancelled.
“We really do not like large-scale protests. We prefer to resolve issues in a dialogue format, but the government is trying to change the direction of the vector so that we do not delve into the essence of the issues and there are no meaningful negotiations between us. Today's statement by the government is evidence of that. Thus, the society will have to solve this problem with unity and scale,” Sputnik-Georgia quotes Varlam Goletiani as saying.
Within the framework of the Namakhvani HPP cascade project, two power plants are to be built on the Rioni River - the Namakhvani HPP itself and the Tvishi HPP. Their design capacity will be 433 MW, that is, up to 12% of energy consumption in Georgia. The project cost is estimated at $ 730 mln.
The Defenders of the Rioni Gorge have been living in a tent camp at the construction site of the Namakhvani hydroelectric power station for six months.