Protests against large dams in Georgia's Svaneti mountains have led to confrontations with police. Locals are losing patience over the protracted consultation process on the project.
Police special forces were deployed last Friday, 20 May to clear a blockade of an access road leading to the planned Nenskra dam site in Georgia’s northwest. The confrontation between police and dozens of locals resulted in the detention of eight residents of the Chuberi community.
Though later released, Chuberis see the police act as a gesture of provocation and intimidation. Fearing further police repression, the Chuberis have called off the road blockade but instead have set to organise a Svaneti regional coordination meeting, in line with Svan tradition.
The altercation is the most recent event in a series of protests by Chuberis, who in late April began blockades of the access roads to the Nenskra project. The community is protesting the negligence of investors to their demands to evaluate the threats of flooding of customary lands and the resettlement of an unknown number of households. Locals fear for their safety, as the dam is to be built in an area prone to landslides and mudflow.
A recent attempt on 15 May by the investor, Korea’s K-Water, to meet with Chuberis failed to materialise, as it was organised without prior notification and it overlapped with local festivities. Locals claim that only 15 people of 320 families attended the meeting, and that participants were brought in from places that would not be affected by the dam. Participants at the meeting also allege that no meaningful discussions took place, and that the choice of mediator was decided without their consent.
Chuberis continue to demand from the Georgian government and international financiers that alternatives to the dam be assessed, ones that would fully account for the project’s social and environmental costs.
Earlier this month at the annual meetings of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank, Bankwatch and Green Alternative asked the banks to follow carefully the situation and initiate open consultations over the Nenskra project.
While the EBRD has said in response to the community’s demands, a detailed assessment is under way and will be released in July, villagers are losing patience with a protracted process of more than a year that has yet to result in fruitful dialogue.
Author: David Chipashvili